Many people are arrested for signing someone’s name on a contract, letter, or other writing each year. However, forgery encapsulates much more than the act of simply another’s name. In fact, as we can see from the following recent New York forgery news stories, there are several documented cases of forgery which do not fall readily to mind:
- A teacher falsifying a student’s report card;
- A DMV supervisor allowing for cheating on a commercial driver’s license test; and
- Forgery of prescriptions to obtain illegal drugs.
There are many different kinds of “forgery;” however, the purpose of this post will be to explain, in part, the reference of that term in the New York State Penal Law.
Of course, if you have been arrested for Forgery or Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in New York, you need to contact a seasoned Manhattan-based lawyer experienced in dealing with forgery cases. As former prosecutors in the Manhattan D.A.’s office, the lawyers at Galluzzo & Arnone LLP are particularly suited to assist you in defending against any and all such charges.
Article 170 of the New York State Penal defines “Forgery and Related Offenses.” In order to understand the charge in New York, it is important to look at the definition section of that article. The definitions of “written instrument,” “complete written instrument,” “incomplete written instrument,” “falsely make,” “falsely complete,” “falsely alter,” “forged instrument,” and “electronic access device” as set forth in PL 170.00 are listed below.
1. "Written instrument" means any instrument or article, including computer data or a computer program, containing written or printed matter or the equivalent thereof, used for the purpose of reciting, embodying, conveying or recording information, or constituting a symbol or evidence of value, right, privilege or identification, which is capable of being used to the advantage or disadvantage of some person.
2. "Complete written instrument" means one which purports to be a genuine written instrument fully drawn with respect to every essential feature thereof. An endorsement, attestation, acknowledgment or other similar signature or statement is deemed both a complete written instrument in itself and a part of the main instrument in which it is contained or to which it attaches.
3. "Incomplete written instrument" means one which contains some matter by way of content or authentication but which requires additional matter in order to render it a complete written instrument.
4. "Falsely make." A person "falsely makes" a written instrument when he makes or draws a complete written instrument in its entirety, or an incomplete written instrument, which purports to be an authentic creation of its ostensible maker or drawer, but which is not such either because the ostensible maker or drawer is fictitious or because, if real, he did not authorize the making or drawing thereof.
5. "Falsely complete." A person "falsely completes" a written instrument when, by adding, inserting or changing matter, he transforms an incomplete written instrument into a complete one, without the authority of anyone entitled to grant it, so that such complete instrument appears or purports to be in all respects an authentic creation of or fully authorized by its ostensible maker or drawer.
6. "Falsely alter." A person "falsely alters" a written instrument when, without the authority of anyone entitled to grant it, he changes a written instrument, whether it be in complete or incomplete form, by means of erasure, obliteration, deletion, insertion of new matter, transposition of matter, or in any other manner, so that such instrument in its thus altered form appears or purports to be in all respects an authentic creation of or fully authorized by its ostensible maker or drawer.
7. "Forged instrument" means a written instrument which has been falsely made, completed or altered.
8. "Electronic access device" means a mobile identification number or electronic serial number that can be used to obtain telephone service.
The basic forgery charge, as set forth in PL 170.05 is as follows:
§ 170.05 Forgery in the third degree. A person is guilty of forgery in the third degree when, with intent to defraud, deceive or injure another, he falsely makes, completes or alters a written instrument. Forgery in the third degree is a class A misdemeanor.
It should be noted here that the crime must pertain to the forgery of a written instrument, which, to summarize, would include any document which is capable of being used to the advantage or disadvantage of another person. This seems like a fairly broad definition, because if you read it broadly, one can make an argument that just about any writing, other than something meant as a joke, could fit this definition. It is also arguable that writing an email from someone else’s account which purports to be from the account-holder’s address, could technically be a forgery. The point here is that forgery can be interpreted pretty broadly, and can actually be used to address a wide variety of alleged misconduct.
§ 170.20 Criminal possession of a forged instrument in the third degree. A person is guilty of criminal possession of a forged instrument in the third degree when, with knowledge that it is forged and with intent to defraud, deceive or injure another, he utters or possesses a forged instrument. Criminal possession of a forged instrument in the third degree is a class A misdemeanor.
This charge can apply to cases where a bad check is passed or possessed, and generally speaking is usually tacked on in cases where the defendant is actually found in possession of the forged written instrument.
Finally, there are enhanced penalties in cases where the value of the forgery exceeds certain monetary threshholds.
If you or a loved one have been charged with a forgery-related charge, including identity theft, you should contact experienced forgery defense lawyers in New York.