Federal Crime of Forgery – 18 U.S.C. § 471
If you are facing forgery charges it is important to obtain an experienced and aggressive federal defense attorney to fight on your behalf. Having a well-seasoned and experienced attorney on your side makes all the difference. The penalties for forgery are very serious and can result in a long-term prison sentence anywhere from 5 to 10 years in prison and large fines from $10,000 to $25,000.
Forgery is defined as altering or making a public record or legal document for personal gain or to harm another. Depending on what was forged, the offense may be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. The main thing is that the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you actually had the specific intent to defraud. This is where our federal lawyers step in and defend you!
18 U.S.C. § 471 states that whoever has the intent to defraud, falsely make, forge counterfeits, or alter any legal document or public governmental record shall be punished.
When it comes to these federal forgery cases across the country, usually, the feds will not get involved in these types of cases unless it involves sophistication and a large dollar amount or some other crime going on.
I've seen them get involved for example, some individuals were taking checks from attorney's law firms and then impersonating the attorney, going into the bank and forging their signature. It was an inside job. Thousands of dollars were lost. That's where the federal government will come in because it will take some sophistication to investigate the federal forgery charges and prove it.
A lot of time, they're going to need a handwriting expert to come in to match up the person they think is doing the federal forging to the attorney's signature and the signature placed in the bank. Obviously, if somebody is going in and claiming that they are another person and the bank has a video of them going in, and they're actually not that person, that would be good evidence as well.
But usually, where I see the federal government becoming involved in a criminal matter as it relates to forgery is when there are large dollar amounts — thousands or even million of dollars involved, big companies involved losing money — then the feds feel like it impacts interstate commerce.
They feel like they should get involved in prosecuting the person, punishing them, and seeing that they get a lengthy federal prison sentence served out at 85%. 18 U.S.C. 471 defines the federal crime of counterfeit currency.
Developing an Effective Defense Strategy
So, if you have one of these federal forgery cases and some sophistication is involved or at least alleged, pick up the phone and call me. We'll sit down and go over everything. We'll get a strategy together. Sometimes the strategy is that the government does not have the full picture.
We have to give them the full picture so they'll even dismiss the case or lessen the charges and the specter they're looking at me in.
The other strategy sometimes is, we need to pay them back. We need to negotiate with them and get ourselves in the best position not to serve prison time or to get lesser charges or to serve the least amount of time possible. So, you can't in every case you're going to use the same defense or strategy because all cases are different. Sometimes the evidence is strong.
Sometimes the evidence is weak. Sometimes it's not even clear, it's a grey area how strong the evidence is, and that's when we really need to sit down, flush everything out and go over it and make some decisions because in these forgery cases, there can be a lot of enhancements that apply in addition to the Code you're going to be charged under and the base defense level that you're going to fall based on violating that Code section.
Other enhancements can apply, for example, the actual or intended loss. These are things that the government is going to look at. How much money did somebody lose based on the forgery? How much money were you trying to get?
Let's say you tried to pass through a million-dollar check, for example, but the check didn't go through — there would be no actual loss there. Still, the intended loss was a million dollars, and don't think the government won't try and jack up your potential sentence because of that intended loss.
So, it gets a little complicated sometimes when you're talking about these federal forgery cases and being at challenge handwriting experts. I've had some big forgery cases where we've been very effective at challenging the handwriting expert — at least getting the judge to agree that the expert could not give the ultimate opinion on whether the signature belonged to a particular defendant.
They could certainly say if they saw similarities in the defendant's signature and the person who committed the crime's signature. Sometimes, we even get our own expert on handwriting to try to counter the prosecutor's expert if the case is going to go to trial.
If you get arrested for forgery, you're going to be brought before a magistrate. You're either going to get out on some sort of bond conditions, whether it be a signature bond, a property bond, or some other related bond, or the Judge could find that you are a danger to the community. You're also a flight risk, and not let you out under any conditions.
In that case, you'd be in custody while your forgery case is pending, and then in the end, if you are found not guilty, you would get out. If you get a sentence, you would serve the sentence, and then you would get out.
So, these federal criminal forgery cases are serious. You need the best attorney to represent you, your interests, rights, freedom, and reputation.
Due to the life-altering consequences of a conviction of forgery, it is important that you obtain an aggressive and well-skilled defense attorney to help you. Our federal criminal defense attorneys are well-versed and have the necessary knowledge of the laws of forgery. We guarantee our persistence and determination to get you the best possible results.