Forgery is a serious white collar crime in Virginia that is aggressively prosecuted. It is a felony crime regardless of the value or amount that is forged. If you have been charged with this crime and want to try to avoid the harsh consequences you face, you need the assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney.
What Is the Crime of Forgery?
Under Virginia Code § 18.2-172, forgery is the creating or altering of a false document with the intent to injure or defraud an individual. Forged documents that can result in a person’s arrest can include public records, certificates, bank notes or coins, or other legal documents that affect the victim’s legal rights. In order to be convicted of this crime, the prosecutor must prove the following:
- Making and altering. The accused must have made or altered the types of documents listed above with the intent to defraud. Creating a new document that appears to be the writing of someone else, filling in false information on a stolen check, altering a birth certificate, or creating a false real estate deed are some of the actions that constitute making or altering a document.
- False document. The document being forged must have some legal significance for the crime of forgery to have been committed. This means that the forged document must affect the legal rights or obligations of another person. In addition, the document must be false, which is the intentional altering or creating of a document that would lead the victim to believe that the document is something other than what it really is.
- Intent to defraud. The accused must commit the actions listed above with the intent to defraud another person. It is not necessary for the crime to be successful as long as the perpetrator intended to defraud a victim.
Forgery is a Class 5 felony. If convicted, a person may be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $2,500.
What Is the Crime of Uttering?
Uttering is a separate crime from forgery under Virginia Code § 18.2-172. This offense is committed when someone tries to use or uses a forged document. As with forgery, the person does not need to be successful in using a forged document to be arrested for this crime.
An individual can be charged with forgery and uttering as two distinct offenses if he creates or alters a document and then uses it or attempts to use it. Like forgery, uttering is a Class 5 felony, and the penalties are the same for both crimes. If convicted of both offenses, a person may face a 20-year prison sentence.
Other Forgery Crimes and Penalties in Virginia
There are several other forgery offenses that a person can be charged with in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Some of them include:
- Forgery by false pretenses. It is a crime under Virginia Code § 18.2-172 to obtain the signature of another person with the intent to defraud. This is also a Class 5 felony with the same possible penalties as for forgery and uttering.
- Forgery of a public seal. Under Virginia Code § 18.2-169, it is a crime to forge or to possess an instrument in order to alter the public seal and to present it as valid. This is a Class 4 felony, and the punishment may include a 10-year prison sentence and $100,000 fine.
- Forgery and uttering of a public document. Forging or uttering a public document is a Class 4 felony under Virginia Code § 18.2-169. The penalty is the same for other forgery-related Class 4 felonies. A person can be charged with two distinct crimes if he commits both forgery and uttering of a public document.
Our Fairfax Criminal Defense Attorneys Can Help
If you have been charged with a forgery crime in Fairfax or Northern Virginia, our Fairfax criminal defense lawyers can help you mount a strong defense so that the charges against you are dismissed or reduced to a less serious offense. Read our case results to learn how we have successfully defended other clients facing criminal charges. Then call our Fairfax office or start an online chat to schedule your free consultation today.