Florida Statute Chapter 831 prohibits many different types of forgery or counterfeiting. This chapter covers many different types of acts that are commonly called forgery or counterfeiting. The two statutes that will be talked about prohibit anyone from falsely making, altering, forging, or counterfeiting documents that give legal efficacy.Forgery – Florida Statute 831.01
This statute specifically prohibits anyone from altering, changing, counterfeiting, creating, etc. a document that is legally important.
Scenarios where you can get charged with forgery:
- Signing a check as if you were someone else;
- Changing a will;
- Creating fake Florida birth certificates;
- Altering receipts;
- Creating a fake court order and trying to copy the judge’s signature; or
- Changing a deed.
The state prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt:
(1) You made, altered, forged, or counterfeited a writing which falsely purports to be the document of another that has legal efficacy; and
(2) You intended to injure or defraud some person or firm.
The forgery does not have to benefit the defendant directly. A defendant can be convicted of this crime if he intended to injure or defraud some person. The prosecutor is not required to prove who the intended victim was or whether anyone was actually injured. For example, a son would be guilty of trying to alter a will so his dad would get more of Grandpa’s inheritance because he knew that the other family members would be defrauded out of the inheritance. It would not matter if the Grandpa was broke when he died.
The court in the case of State v. Escobedo talked about documents with legal efficacy. These documents would be used in relation to some type of legal matter. A good test to figure out if the document has legal efficacy is to ask if the forged document would cause any harm or liability on either party. If it does cause harm or liability, then the document has legal efficacy.
Examples of documents with legal efficacy:
- Public records;
- Birth certificates,
- Anything with an attestation of any clerk or register of a court, public register, notary public, town clerk or any public officer,
- A charter,
- Will or testament,
- Letter of attorney,
- Insurance policy,
- Bill of exchange or promissory note, or
- An order, acquittance, or discharge for money or other property, or
- An acceptance of a bill of exchange or promissory note for the payment of money, or any receipt for money, goods or other property.
There are some defenses to forgery. One defense is that the forged document was merely a joke and that anyone would not take it seriously. A good example is fake billion dollar bills or large poster board checks you see on TV when people win some sweepstake. Talk to one of our West Palm Beach Forgery Lawyers to see which defenses are available to your case.Punishment for Forgery
Forgery is a third-degree felony, which is punishable up to 5 years in prison with a $5,000 fine. It is ranked as level 2 out of 10 under the Florida Criminal Punishment Code.Passing as True a Forgery – Florida Statute 813.02
This statute specifically prohibits anyone from trying to pass as true a forged document. The previous statute prohibited the creation of a forged document while this statute is prohibiting the use of the forged document.
Examples of passing as true a forgery:
- Cashing a cashier’s check when you don’t know the validity of it;
- Cashing a check that is part of a Nigerian check cashing scam;
- Presenting a will that has extra writing on it; or
- Presenting a judge’s order with a fake signature.
The state prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt:
1. You passed or offered to pass as true a document with legal efficacy(see the above list);
2. You knew the document to be false, altered, forged, or counterfeited; and
3. You intended to injure or defraud some person or firm.
The defendant does not have to be the creator of the forged document. He only has to pass it as true.Defenses
There are many different defenses that can be raised. One big issue is that the defendant needs to know the document is forged. One good example of how innocent people could get charged under this crime is by being a potential victim of a Nigerian check cashing scam. How the Nigerian scam works is that someone on the internet contacts the potential victim via only internet for some type of business deal. The victim receives a forged check in the mail that looks legitimate. The check, however, is ALWAYS for an amount larger than what was agreed upon. The scammer contacts the potential victim and says they made a mistake. The honest victim sends a real check back for the difference. The victim cashes the fake check and the scammer cashes his real check. The forged check bounces and the scammer gets away with the money. In State v. Konegen, a similar situation happened and the defendant was convicted at trial.
Another situation is where the defendant is really just a middleman for the real criminal. A shady boss, client, business partner, or co-worker can all be the sources of the forged document. Those people ask you to cash the check for them or to forward to a third party- either way you knew or should have known that there was something illegal and you are arrested.Punishment for Passing as True a Forgery
Forgery is a third-degree felony, which is punishable up to 5 years in prison with a $5,000 fine. It is ranked as level 2 out of 10 under the Florida Criminal Punishment Code.Contact the Law Office of Roger P. Foley, P.A.
If you or a loved one have been arrested and charged with this crime, contact our law firm today. You can schedule a free consultation with us and give us your side of the story. Our West Palm Beach Forgery Lawyers will develop a defense strategy to use for your case. We will take depositions of witnesses and any police officers. We will find out what evidence the prosecutor has against you and find the weaknesses. Our Goal is to prove your innocence and if that is not possible then we look to mitigate your sentence to receive the best possible outcome.