New York Federal Forgery Lawyer

In the most broad terms, Forgery is the act of falsifying a writing with the intent to deceive another individual or entity, and is traditionally a state – and not federal – level offense. Only the most serious Forgery cases are brought by federal prosecutors – and they are punished very severely.

While there is no general felony Forgery statute in the United States Code, a number of situation specific laws exist which punish this conduct. For example, federal statutes exist which prohibit the forging of passports (18 U.S.C. § 1543), the seals of federal government agencies and federal courts (18 U.S.C. §§ 505, 506), vehicle identification numbers (18 U.S.C. § 511), signatures on federal notes or bonds (18 U.S.C. § 510), customs declarations (18 U.S.C. § 496) or any deed, contract or power of attorney with the intent to defraud the United States (18 U.S.C. § 495). A New York federal forgery lawyer could help you if are facing any of these charges. Our dedicated team could build a case in your defense and work to minimize any potential penalties.

What Do Charges of Federal Forgery Entail?

The forging of any deed, contract or power of attorney with the intent to defraud the United States, is perhaps the most generally applicable and covers three different types of conduct. Specifically, according to 18 U.S.C. § 495, whoever falsely makes or alters any deed, power of attorney, contract, or other writing, for the purposes of obtaining money from the United States or enables another to do the same, can be prosecuted under federal law.

To receive a conviction a prosecutor must establish that the defendant knowingly used or published a false document with the intent to defraud the United States. In some cases, the prosecutor also must prove that the defendant transmitted or presented a falsified document to any office or officer of the United States with the intent to defraud. Any of these actions may be punished by up to 10 years imprisonment and a fine. As the Court of Appeals has indicated, 18 U.S.C. §495 is a “broadly worded felony statute,” and it covers many situations. See United States v. Jackson, 805 F.2d 457, 462 (2d Cir. 1986); See also United States v. Bennerson, 616 F. Supp. 167, 173 n.4 (S.D.N.Y. 1985) (“a very general [statute]”).

Also punished harshly is the forging or use of false passports. Specifically, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 1543 when someone forges or alters any passport with the intent to use it they could be imprisoned by up to 10 years for any first or second offense, and up to 15 years for any third or later offense. Additionally, if the crime was committed to further or facilitate drug trafficking, then a conviction may carry up to a 20-year sentence of imprisonment. Finally, if the offense was committed to further or facilitate any act of international terrorism, then a conviction carries with it a potential term of imprisonment of 25 years.

Other Examples

The other examples noted above are punished accordingly: forging the seals of federal government agencies (up to five years imprisonment); forging the seals of federal courts or signatures of federal judges and court officers (up to five years imprisonment); forging signatures on federal notes and bonds (up to 10 years imprisonment); forging or altering a vehicle identification number (up to five years imprisonment); and forging customs declarations (up to three years imprisonment). Additionally, federal Forgery allegations frequently also result in charges of Wire or Mail Fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1341, 1343, which carry much harsher maximum terms of imprisonment of 20 years and a fine.

What Makes a Forgery Charge a Federal vs. a State Offense?

Often, forgery charges are classified as state offenses. However, there are multiple factors that may cause a forgery charge to be elevated to a federal offense. For instance, per 18 U.S.C. § 510, forging the signature on a federal bond, security, or U.S. Treasure check is a federal offense, prosecuted by up to 10 years in jail plus a fine. If the forgery happens involves an act committed in New York in addition to one or more other states, or the forged item is transported from New York to another state, the offense could be charged at the federal level. A New York attorney could review a forgery case and determine if it can be tried federally.

Can a Forgery Charge be Tried at Both the State and Federal Level?

While the Double Jeopardy clause of the U.S. Constitution prohibits charging someone for a crime in the same jurisdiction for which they have previously been found innocent or guilty, this does not prevent the federal government from bringing forgery charges against someone who is facing similar charges in a state court. If the forgery offense in question breaches federal as well as state mandates, a person could foreseeably be tried at both the state and federal level.

What Is the Difference Between Forgery and Counterfeiting Charges?

Counterfeiting is a related but separate charge that is often confused with forgery. While forgery involves creating or changing a document for the purpose of deceiving someone into believing that it is the work of another, counterfeiting is when someone deceptively represents a fake object as authentic.

As with forgery, counterfeiting can be charged at the state or federal level. Examples of counterfeiting that would fall under the jurisdiction of the federal government include counterfeited bonds and credit union documents. A federal counterfeiting offense can be punishable by up to 20 year’s incarceration, in addition to fines ranging as high as $250,000. A federal defense attorney in New York could further explain these differences and how it may impact someone’s forgery case.

Hire a New York Federal Forgery Attorney

If you are facing accusations of falsifying legal documents, you should contact our New York federal forgery lawyers immediately. The team at the Law Offices of Jeffrey Lichtman could help you with your case and fight diligently against these accusations. For more information about how we could help you, call today.

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