Felony forgery is purposely altering or changing any information on a legal document with the intent to defraud an agency or another person. The reasons for forgery can vary. Forgers typically commit their crimes in order to acquire money, but they can also commit forgery to obtain goods or services. Felony forgery can also be a way to gather information about a person or a business. When this type of forgery occurs, identity theft can also happen.
Fraud and forgery are very similar offenses because they consist of attempting to gain money illegally by false representation but fraud is typically committed for the sole purpose of obtaining money. Felony forgery is distinctly different. Forgers have a clear reason for committing their crimes. For example, if there is an inheritance that hasn’t been claimed, a criminal may try to steal the identity of the person to whom it legally belongs. This goes much further than simply attempting to obtain money because if the criminal succeeds, he may also acquire land, possessions and social ranking.
Any forged document must be legally significant before it is considered a felony forgery. It has to appear to look almost identical to the original copy and it also has to have deceived a person. Computer-generated, handwritten or even engraved items can be used to defraud a company or individual. Attempting to file out-of-date forms or using false signatures on legal documents is also considered a forgery. If a forged document is found on a person but it hasn’t been used, that person can still be charged with felony forgery.
One of the most common motives for felony forgery is to obtain another person’s identity. A birth certificate or passport can be altered to gain entry into a country. Government documents can be changed to receive government-issued payments such as Social Security benefits or tax refunds. Person identification that includes a drivers license can be altered by changing an age or name. The criminal is then able to avoid an arrest warrant or receive benefits that are intended for elderly people.
Each state has its own laws regarding felony forgery, which differ. The penalties can depend on whether any legal documents were used and how much money was actually stolen. First degree forgery means that documents were used and there was also a strong attempt to defraud. With second degree forgery, there is typically no document involved. A felony forgery conviction can mean an extended jail sentence and having to pay excessive fines along with a felony conviction on permanent record.