Forgery is part of Pennsylvania's “Forgery and Fraudulent Practices” statute, which protects the state's citizens from economic crime. The state prosecutes forgery cases aggressively, and you could face charges ranging from a first-degree misdemeanor to a second-degree felony. If you have a conviction for forgery on your record, you know that a criminal record can follow you forever, limiting your future career opportunities and impacting your ability to get a loan or even rent an apartment. Fortunately, Pennsylvania law allows several options for cleaning up your criminal record.
While expungement of your criminal record, which destroys your records, is often the most thorough way to clean up a criminal record, not many people qualify to expunge arrest and criminal records in Pennsylvania. If you have a misdemeanor or felony conviction, you can only expunge your record under very limited circumstances. However, if you have a misdemeanor conviction for forgery, you may be able to seal your record, limiting public access to them through a court order.
Pennsylvania Statute for Forgery
You may face charges for forgery in Pennsylvania if you have the “intent to defraud or injure” someone or you know that you are “facilitating a fraud or injury” perpetrated by anyone and you:
- Alter someone else's writing without their authority,
- Make, complete, execute, authenticate, issue, or transfer any writing “so that it purports to be the act of another who” didn't authorize it, or that it was “executed at a time or place or in a numbered sequence other than” it was, or to be a copy of an original “where no original exists,” or to
- “Utter” any writing you know to be forged in the same manner.
Under this statute, “writing” means “printing or any other method of recording information, money, coins, tokens, stamps, seals, credit cards, badges, trademarks, electronic signatures, and other symbols of value, right, privilege, or identification.” 18 Pa. Stat. § 4101 (2002).
Penalties for Forgery in Pennsylvania
The grading of a forgery defense will depend on whether money, securities, or something else of value is involved or whether it involves another legal document. The grading can range from a first-degree misdemeanor to a second-degree felony.
Felony Forgery Penalties in Pennsylvania
- Third-degree Felony Forgery is a third-degree penalty in Pennsylvania if it involves a legal document. The statute states: Forgery is a felony of the third degree if the writing is or purports to be a will, deed, contract, release, commercial instrument, or other document evidencing, creating, transferring, altering, terminating, or otherwise affecting legal relations. A conviction for a third-degree felony is punishable by up to seven years in prison and a $15,000 fine.
- Second-degree Felony Forgery is a second-degree felony if it involves money, securities, or something else of value. The statute states: Forgery is a felony of the second degree if the writing is or purports to be part of an issue of money, securities, postage or revenue stamps, or other instruments issued by the government, or part of an issue of stock, bonds or other instruments representing interests in or claims against any property or enterprise. In Pennsylvania, a second-degree felony is punishable by five to ten years in prison and up to a $25,000 fine.
Misdemeanor Forgery Penalties in Pennsylvania
Forgery will be a first-degree misdemeanor in Pennsylvania if it doesn't involve a legal document, commercial instrument, money, securities, or property of other value. A first-degree misdemeanor is punishable by up to five years in prison and a $1,500 to $15,000 fine.
Sealing Your Misdemeanor Record for Forgery Through Clean Slate
The Pennsylvania legislature recently passed a new statute allowing the state to automatically seal the records of qualifying people after five to ten years. This new “Clean Slate” legislation gives more people access to record sealing than ever before. In the past, many people who qualified didn't apply to seal their records because the process was difficult to understand, and they may not have known about the option. Now, the sealing process happens automatically under Clean Slate if:
- You only have a conviction for a summary offense, a second-degree misdemeanor, or a third-degree misdemeanor,
- You have a conviction for a misdemeanor punishable by only two years in prison or less, or
- You don't have a conviction because of a not-guilty verdict or a dismissal of your charges.
A first-degree misdemeanor is punishable by up to five years in Pennsylvania. As a result, if you have a first-degree misdemeanor conviction for forgery in Pennsylvania, you won't be eligible to seal your records automatically under Clean Slate.
Sealing Your Misdemeanor Record for Forgery with an Act 5 Petition
Even if you don't qualify for automatic sealing under Clean Slate, you may still be able to petition the court to limit public access to your records under Act 5. You may qualify to petition for Act 5 sealing if:
- It's been ten years since you paid your fines and completed your sentence,
- You don't have any additional prosecutions or arrests, not just convictions, for any other crimes punishable by a year or more in prison,
- You have a misdemeanor or ungraded conviction punishable by five years or less in prison.
Because a first-degree misdemeanor forgery carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison, you may qualify to use an Act 5 petition to seal your arrest and court records.
Can I Seal a Felony Record for Forgery in Pennsylvania?
No, you probably can't seal a second or third-degree felony conviction for forgery in Pennsylvania. The law doesn't permit sealing under either Clean Slate or Act 5. However, you should visit an experienced sealing and expungement attorney to explore other options.
You Need a Skilled Pennsylvania Sealing Attorney
If you have a misdemeanor conviction for forgery in Pennsylvania and want to explore how you can seal your record. Or, if you have a felony conviction for forgery and want to see if you have any options, you need to consult an experienced Pennsylvania sealing and expungement attorney. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has been helping people like you for years, and he can help you too. Give the skilled team at the Lento Law Firm a call at 888.535.3686 to schedule a consultation today, or contact them online.