Forgery is almost always a serious felony crime in North Carolina that involves many criminal activities other than forging a check. If you have been charged with this offense, you could be sentenced to a lengthy prison sentence and have a permanent criminal record that can affect your ability to obtain a job, housing, and much more. Fortunately, you may have strong defenses—even if you are guilty—that may result in the charges being dismissed or reduced to a less serious offense through a plea bargain.
What Documents Can Be Involved in the Crime of Forgery?
Forgery is a white-collar crime that involves possessing or using a false document to commit fraud. The law is very broad and makes it a crime to forge many types of documents, such as:
- Financial documents, such as checks, banknotes, or other types of currency
- Leases and deeds
- Promissory notes or other documents for the payment of money or the delivery of goods
- Corporate bonds, stocks, and securities
- Licenses, educational certificates, diplomas, or other similar documents
What Is the Crime of Forgery?
Forgery involves using a document to create a misrepresentation with the goal of obtaining a benefit. The elements of the crime that must be proven include:
- A person modified or altered an existing document or created a new one.
- The document has legal significance. This can be established by showing that it has value, represents another document that has value, or signifies an ownership interest.
- The creation or alteration of the document was material, which means that the legal impact of the document has been changed.
- The person intended to defraud another party by misrepresenting the nature of the document and knew that the other party would rely on it. However, the victim does not have to actually rely on the forged document for the crime to be committed.5
Types of Forgery and Punishments in North Carolina
There are many ways that an individual can commit the crime of forgery, and the punishment will depend on the type of forgery crime committed. Here are common offenses and the penalties if convicted:
If a person creates, alters, or possesses a forged instrument, the crime is a Class I felony. The punishment is a fine of 4 to 10 months in prison, a fine to be set by the judge, or both.
The penalty is more serious if an individual is convicted of transporting five or more forged documents. This crime is a Class G felony that carries a penalty of 4 to 25 months in prison and a fine.
Wills, Deeds, and Leases
Forging a will, lease, deed, or other similar document is a Class H felony. The penalty is five to 20 months in prison, a fine, or both.
Creating, altering, or possessing a forged corporate security would be charged as a Class I felony. If convicted, a person faces the same penalties as for a forged instrument crime.
If the forgery involves educational certificates, the crime would also be charged as a Class 1 misdemeanor. However, the punishment would also be less severe—up to 45 days in jail and a fine.
Uttering a Forged Instrument
Uttering a forged document involves cashing, transferring, endorsing, or otherwise using a forged instrument. It is a Class H felony and has the same potential penalty as forging a will, lease, or deed.
Selling a Forged Item
Selling or transferring a forged item for cash or other items of value is also a Class H felony. The punishment would be the same as for the other Class H felonies listed above.
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