Forgery and Uttering Offenses in Virginia

Virginia law contains a number of criminal offenses related to forgery and uttering a false instrument. Such charges are treated seriously, and include public records forgery, forgery of bank notes or coins, credit card forgery, and obtaining money by false pretenses.  These are, among others, fraud offenses that may be charged as misdemeanors or felonies, depending on the nature of the offense and the monetary amount at issue.

Forgery of Public Records

Under Virginia Code § 18.2-168, it is unlawful to forge a public record, certificate, return, or attestation of any public officer or public employee when such document may be used as legal proof, or to utter or attempt to use as true such a forged record or document knowing it to be forged.  This offense is a Class 4 felony punishable by two to 10 years in prison, and a fine of up to $100,000. This offense is often charged when an individual falsely signs a summons issued by a police officer using another’s name or identifying information, or otherwise attempts to use a false attestation or certificate in legal proceedings.  

Forgery and Uttering of Non-Public Records

Virginia Code § 18.2-172 provides that if any person forges a writing other than a public record in such a way as to prejudice the rights of another, or utters or attempts to use as true such a forged writing knowing it to be forged, then he shall be guilty of a Class 5 felony.  Class 5 felonies are punishable by one to 10 years in prison, or a term in jail of up to twelve months, and a fine of up to $2,500. This statute also provides that any person who obtains the signature of another person to such a writing by false pretenses with the intent to defraud any person, then he is also guilty of the same offense.  

Obtaining Money by False Pretenses

Under Virginia Code § 18.2-178, it is unlawful for any person to obtain by any false pretenses (i.e., lying, misleading, or misrepresenting facts) from any person, with the intent to defraud that person, any money or other property.  Such a violation is punishable as a larceny. Under Virginia Code § 18.2-95, that means if the value of the property obtained by false pretenses is $500 or more, then the offense is punishable by up to 20 years in prison, or confinement in jail for up to twelve months, and/or a fine of up to $2,500.  If the value of the money or property is less than $500, then the offense is punishable as a Class 1 misdemeanor with a maximum possible sentence of twelve months in jail and/or a fine of up to $2,500. Section 18.2-178 further provides that if a person obtains another’s signature to a writing by false pretenses where the making of such writing would be forgery, then he shall be guilty of a Class 4 felony.  

Credit Card Forgery

A commonly charged offense in the age of increasing use of credit cards is credit card forgery.  This offense may be accomplished by any of the following acts:

a. When a person, with the intent to defraud the credit card issuer or a person or organization providing moneys, goods, or services, falsely makes or embosses a purported credit card or utters such a credit card; or

b. When an individual who is not the cardholder or someone authorized by the cardholder, with the intent to defraud the issuer or a person or organization providing moneys, goods, or services, signs a credit card; or

c. When an individual who is not the cardholder or someone authorized by the cardholder, with the intent to defraud the issuer or a person or organization providing moneys, goods, or services, forges a sales draft or cash advance or withdrawal draft, or uses a credit card number of a card that is not him, or utters or attempts to use as true such a forged draft knowing it to be forged.

Credit card forgery is a Class 5 felony punishable by one to 10 years in prison, or a term in jail of up to twelve months, and a fine of up to $2,500.

Defenses to Forgery and Uttering Offenses

Forgery, uttering, and other fraud-related offenses are often very technical in nature.  That means that the prosecution often has to subpoena records from multiple sources or otherwise line up multiple witnesses to prove every important link in the chain of events.  Depending on the circumstances and nature of the case, there may be a variety of ways to defend against these charges. Those include alibi defenses where the actual identity of the offender is in question, as well as defenses based on the intent of the actor at the time of the incident.  Most importantly, an experienced criminal defense attorney can sift carefully through the evidence to determine whether every element of the charged offense can be proven beyond all reasonable doubt.

Muhammad Elsayed
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Criminal, Traffic, and Injury Law Attorney Fluent in English and Arabic