What is Forgery?

Forgery is altering a document with the intent to defraud another person or entity.

Under Georgia law, forgery is basically altering a document to obtain a financial benefit. Non-check forgery is usually a first or second-degree felony, regardless of the amount at issue. Check forgery, which nowadays is usually limited to payroll check forgery, is a third or fourth-degree felony, mostly depending on the value of the property. These amounts are generally large, a fact that explains the punishment disparity.

To avoid the serious direct and indirect consequences of a forgery conviction, a Norcross criminal defense attorney reviews the case and identifies any possible defenses. These defenses don’t have to be strong enough to “prove” the defendant’s “innocence.” They must simply be strong enough to create reasonable doubt as to the defendant’s guilt. In Georgia, a reasonable doubt is anything beyond fanciful or imaginary doubt. So, if a lawyer presents an alternative theory of the case and there is any evidence to support that theory, the jury must find the defendant not guilty as a matter of law.

Kinds of Forgery

Prescription drug forgery, identity card forgery, and signature forgery are the most common forgery offenses that our Norcross criminal defense lawyers handle.

Altering a label is the most common kind of prescription drug forgery. Almost anyone with a laser printer, a determined attitude, and some free time can make a fake prescription drug label that is good enough to fool most people.

Common prescription alterations include changing the patient’s name, medication dosage, amount of pills, or the number of refills.

The “most people” mentioned above do not include police officers or pharmacy techs. These individuals usually have special training in this area. In their eyes, the slightest flaw is proof positive of forgery.

Identity card forgery and a somewhat related area, paper license plate forgery, are almost as common as prescription drug forgery. Once again, these documents are relatively easy to falsify, especially out-of-state driver’s licenses, ID cards, and paper license tags.

Frequently, people do not alter IDs, driver’s licenses, or even paper license plate tags with the intent to defraud. They alter them with the intent to buy alcohol illegally or sell them on the black market. These infractions might constitute a crime, but they usually are not forgery.

Once again, signature alteration is only forgery if the defendant had the intent to defraud. That definition includes conduct like faking a signature on a loan application and excludes conduct like faking a signature on a permission slip.

Intent alone is sufficient. If Rick fakes his wife’s signature on a loan application and does not present that application, he still might be guilty of forgery.

Forgery Defenses

Seized physical evidence, like prescription labels, ID cards, and loan applications, almost always involved Fourth Amendment issues. Such evidence is inadmissible in court unless officers have a valid search warrant or a narrow search warrant exception, like owner consent, applied.

Consent is a bit tricky in forgery cases because it is a bit unclear who “owns” illegally forged documents.

Furthermore, possessing forged documents may be illegal, but such possession is not forgery. Prosecutors must establish, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant illegally altered the documents.

Work With a Tough-Minded Gwinnett County Forgery Defense Lawyer

Document forgery carries serious consequences. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense lawyer in Norcross, contact Zimmerman & Associates, Attorneys at Law.