Many people associate forgery with the creation of fake documents or signing someone else’s name on a check. However, the definition of the offense under North Carolina law is complex and encompasses a much wider range of criminal activities. Plus, forgery is almost always charged as a felony, so you could be facing a lengthy term of incarceration, fines, restitution, and other penalties. Your best strategy for fighting an arrest for forgery starts with retaining a Charlotte forgery defense lawyer to represent your interests.
At Randall & Stump, PLLC, our approach to defending a criminal case revolves around the basic concept that you’re presumed innocent and the prosecution must prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. This is a heavy burden, and our Charlotte white-collar crime attorneys strive to make sure the prosecution doesn’t meet it. To schedule a free and confidential consultation of your case, contact us today at (980) 237-4579.
North Carolina Law is Tough on Forgery Cases
Forgery is a type of fraud, because it involves using a document as misrepresentation to gain a benefit. Another term for forgery is “uttering a forged instrument,” which means using fraudulent writing with the intent to defraud another party. The details will vary based upon the specific charges you face, but the general elements a prosecutor must prove are:
- You modified or altered an existing document, or created a false instrument
- The document has legal significance, either because it has value, represents an item of value, or signifies an ownership interest
- The alteration or creation of the instrument was “material,” in the sense that it changes the legal impact of the document
- You intended to defraud another party, through misrepresenting the nature of the document and with the knowledge that the person or entity would rely upon it
Law enforcement and prosecutors need extensive, solid proof to convict you in a forgery case. Instead of being arrested on the spot, there’s often a lengthy period of investigation as officials gather enough evidence to charge you with uttering a forged instrument. You do have rights during these investigations, which is why retaining a forgery lawyer is crucial as soon as you believe you’re the target on a pre-charge investigation.
Types of Forgery
Though the essential elements above are consistent with the basic definition of forgery, there are multiple forms of the offense. North Carolina General Statutes (NCGS) § 14-119 – 14-125 includes a range of criminal activities, including:
- Forgery of a financial note, check, or security document
- Presenting a bogus writing (also known as “forgery of instrument”)
- Using a document with a fake endorsement, sometimes referred to as signature forgery
- Check forgery or presenting a worthless check as payment for goods or services;
- Prescription forgery, which involves using a health care provider’s prescription pad or other identifying information to obtain a controlled substance
- Issuing fake pay stubs to employees or independent contractors
- Forging a will, trust, deed, or another instrument
- Counterfeit money charges, which could involve making or producing fake money, or presenting it as payment
Strict Criminal Penalties for Forgery
The punishment for uttering a forged instrument in Charlotte, NC is based upon the classification of the crime, the value of the property, the identity of the victim, and other factors. A Charlotte forgery attorney can provide more details on the forgery punishment you may face. Examples of penalties for forgery-related offenses include:
- Class I felony charges apply for forgeries of checks, notes, and counterfeit instruments, Per NCGS § 14-119. For check forgery, presenting a simple worthless check, and related crimes, you could face anywhere between three and 12 months in prison. If you, however, are found with five or more checks/related documents of this nature, the offense is heightened to a Class G felony, which is punishable with a prison term of eight to 31 months.
- Forgery of deeds, wills, and related documents is a Class H felony under NC law. If convicted of this offense, you face four to 25 months in prison.
- It’s a Class I Felony to utter a forged document, or paperwork containing a fake endorsement. The prison sentence for a conviction on this offense is three to 12 months.
Defenses to Forgery Charges
As with any criminal case, multiple defenses may be available. For instance, your Fourth Amendment protection against unlawful search and seizure applies. Any evidence law enforcement officers collect in violation of your civil rights must be excluded, which may defeat criminal charges against you. Your forgery lawyer will present any and all defenses in a forgery case, such as:
- Insufficient Evidence – If the prosecutor doesn’t present enough evidence for a conviction, you may be acquitted on forgery charges.
- Consent – If the alleged victim of a forged instrument agreed to your actions, you could have a defense to the charges.
- Mistake of Fact – In some purported forgery situations, you may have made a mistake. Examples could include issuing fake pay stubs or a worthless check, thinking you had money to cover the amount.
- Lack of Intent – Because intent to defraud is an essential element of the prosecution’s case, the prosecutor must show that you intended to engage in forgery.
Keep in mind that there is no statute of limitations on forgery and related crimes, because North Carolina doesn’t impose a time restriction on any felony. Therefore, you cannot rely on the statute of limitations as a defense.