The precise definition of the Pennsylvania crime "Forgery" can be found in the crimes code at 18 Pa.C.S. §4101. A forgery is committed when a document is altered with the intent to defraud. Common examples of forgery are stealing credit cards and using them without permission, stealing checks and forging another's signature, cashing forged checks knowing the checks are forged, forging legal documents or passing any forged document. In Pennsylvania, monetary loss by the victim is not required for the prosecution to convict on a forgery charge.
Grading of Forgery
Forgery is a felony of the second degree (F-2) when the item forged is money, securities, postage, instruments issued by the government OR stocks, bonds or instruments representing an interest in property or an enterprise. When Forgery is graded as an F-2, it carries an offense gravity score (OGS) of 4.
Forgery is a felony of the third degree (F-3) when the document being forged is a will, deed, contract, commercial instrument (i.e. - a personal check) release form or any document affecting legal relations. In my experience, the majority of forgery cases involve commercial instruments or bank checks. Also, the courts have ruled that forging a credit card slip is a "document affecting legal relations." When forgery is graded as an F-3, it carries an OGS of 3.
Other types of forgery are graded as a misdemeanor of the first degree (M-1). When forgery is an M-1 it carries an OGS of 3.
Elements of a Pennsylvania Forgery Offense
To obtain a forgery conviction, the prosecution must prove that with the intent to defraud or injure you:
- altered the writing of another without permission; or
- executed or issued any writing so that it purported to be the act of another who did not authorize the act; or
Example: John uses a credit card at Wawa he stole from his ex-girlfriend Amy.
- uttered (issued) any writing that you knew to be forged.
Example: John's new girlfriend, Suzy, writes a check for $1000.00 made payable to John using her mom's checkbook. John knows that Suzy forged her mom's signature. John cashes the check at his bank.
Example: John gets a refund check from his contractor for $3000.00 dollars. John changes the 3 to an 8 and the check is now made out for $8000.00.
If you or someone you know is under investigation for forgery charges contact my office at (610) 299-0295 for a free consultation.
As a former Assistant District Attorney, Jason tried a forgery case where the defendant was accused of forging checks and passing them on to a minor to cash at a local bank. After deliberation, the jury convicted the defendant on all 13 counts of forgery and related crimes.
Jason represented the secretary to the CEO of a Chester County company who embezzled in excess of $40,000.00 by using the company's checkbook to pay for personal expenses over a period of several years. Result: the Defendant plead guilty and was placed on house arrest followed by probation. In a sentencing proceeding before Chester County Judge David Bortner, the prosecution sought significant jail time. The defendant never served a day in jail.