People commit crimes for various reasons - some can be rationalized more than others. The reality for many people who are charged with crimes like forgery, and other related white collar crimes, are that they have succumbed to financial pressures. Studies have shown that during periods of economic stress, the rate of crime involving the theft of monetary funds increases. It's not a new phenomenon for people who are deprived of essential needs, or are experiencing immense financial hardship, to completely disregard the potential repercussions of committing a theft crime to fulfill their economic needs.
Since forgery typically doesn't include any form of violence or bodily harm to another person, people charged with this crime tend to minimize its gravity. This attitude is rooted in misinformation, naivety and outright denial. However, once one becomes acquainted with the laws and potential penalties centered around forgery in the state of Pennsylvania, the former smug attitude about the commission of a forgery crime briskly becomes panic. Understandably so, as a forgery conviction warrants dire repercussions that could include fines, imprisonment, and the creation of a criminal record.
If you have been accused of committing a forgery offense, your first and immediate step should be to consult with an attorney. An experienced legal professional will be able to provide you with a plethora of viable legal options, and will actively negotiate for a reduced sentence, or will work towards getting your case dismissed altogether. Your next step would be to gain an all-inclusive understanding of the system you're up against. Theft crimes are graded unpredictably, meaning that one could be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony for one instance based on the circumstances. Knowing the laws and penalties in Pennsylvania will help you understand the magnitude of your charges, so you can in turn, make wise decisions.
Forgery Laws in Pennsylvania
According to Pennsylvania statutes, the crime of forgery is constituted when a person intentionally and knowingly attempts to defraud or cause harm to someone else through means of fabrication or imitation. Although the state references physical harm in its definition, the intent in these cases is almost always to deceive for some type of profit. Essentially, in the event that a person recreates something that isn't original - whether it be a document, a financial instrument, or any other item - and attempts to pass it off as authentic to receive something in return, they can be charged with forgery.
Types of forgery
There are a massive scope of crimes that could be legally considered forgery in accordance with Pennsylvania law. The law mentions three examples of forgery that people are commonly convicted for. These examples include:
- Altering someone's writing without their permission - Let's say a customer wrote you a check for $500, and you use a pen, with the same color ink to add another 0 in the amount, modifying the amount to now $5,000.
- Drafting a false document from scratch, or completing a document that has already been started - Today's technological advancements can make forgery difficult to detect. Perhaps you make a false gift card that emulates an authorized one to redeem the money for merchandise.
- Passing off a document you didn't create and that you know is forged, as authentic - you don't have to be the creator of a forged document or item to be charged with this crime. For example, if a close friend of yours creates a false nursing license and you submit it with an application to get a job in a hospital, this action could lead to a forgery charge.
In the majority of forgery cases, this crime is attempted or commissioned for purposes of puniciary gain. Nevertheless, there may be other fathomable reasons that a person may be compelled to commit this crime. People forge identification cards to buy alcohol or get into certain establishments, they forge diplomas and licenses to land a career they aren't qualified for, and forge legal contracts to get the upper hand in court. Understanding the various types of forgery will help you figure out why you may be facing charges, especially if you don't understand the logistics of your respective crime.
Depending on the circumstances of a case, a forgery crime can be graded as either a misdemeanor or a felony. The penalties imposed for a forgery crime depend on what it was that was forged.
This offense will be charged as a second degree felony if it involves items such as postage, money, or security. It is punishable by a maximum imprisonment sentence of ten years and/or $25,000 fine.
If the crime involves a will, contract, deed or commercial instrument, it will be charged as a third degree felony. Upon conviction, a defendant will be sentenced to a seven year imprisonment sentence and/or a fine of up to $15,000.
All other instances of forgery will be charged as a first degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to five years in prison and/or a fine of $10,000.
Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Attorney
As you can see, accusations of forgery are serious matters that should be defended adequately. Whether the commission of this crime was unintentional, or you succumbed to certain pressures, you still have a right to legal representation. A skilled defense attorney will be able to maximize the chances of getting your sentence reduced or completely getting your case dismissed.
With over 15 years of experience, Joseph D. Lento represents clients of all demographics in Pennsylvania who have acquired both misdemeanor and felony charges. He understands that people make mistakes, and oftentimes don't deserve the full extent of the repercussions imposed. Contact him today at 215-535-5353 for a consultation.