The New Jersey Legislature has expanded the scope for the crime of forgery in recent years. Contrary to popular opinion, forgery is not limited to legal documents and includes items like prescriptions, diplomas and professional certificates. In fact, the forgery law set forth at N.J.S.A. 2C:21–1 is drafted so broadly that it even covers private records such as diaries, books of account and letters. As if this language was not potent enough, there is an additional violation that often arises with forgery known as falsifying or tampering with records under N.J.S.A. 2C:21-4. If you were arrested for forging something, you can contact our firm anytime 24/7 for immediate assistance. You definitely want to consider this offer because we are not only one of the largest defense offices in the state, comprised of several former prosecutors, but also since a forgery conviction will result in a felony criminal record.
What Constitutes a Forgery Under N.J.S.A. 2C:21-1?
The NJ Criminal Code makes it a crime to commit a forgery with respect to almost any document. N.J.S.A. 2C:21-1 defines “forgery” to include: (1) altering or changing the writing of another with authority to do so; and (2) makes, completes, executes, authenticates, issues or transfers a writing of a fictitious person, not having been executed at the accurate time or place or numbered sequence, or purports to be the original document when it is not; or (3) any writing the an individual utters when he/she knows it is forged. In a prosecution for forgery, the state must prove three (3) elements to obtain a conviction. First, it must prove that defendant acted with a purpose to defraud or injure another or with knowledge that he was aiding another to injure or defraud a third person. Second, it must be proved that there was a writing of another. Finally, it must be proven that the writing was altered by defendant without consent, or the writing must have been completed, executed, authenticated, issued or transferred in one of five specified fraudulent ways, or it must have been uttered with knowledge of the alteration or fraudulent practice done to the writing.
Generally, a forgery charge is a fourth degree crime that can result in up to eighteen (18) months in prison and a $10,000 fine. However, this offense is upgraded to a third degree crime under certain circumstances. One of those scenarios is where the writing is or purports to be a document issued by the government including a driver’s license or prescription blank, or part of an issue of stock, bonds or other instruments. Another scenario is where the writing is or purports to be a check. Lastly, it is a crime of the third degree if the writing is or purports to be fifteen (15) or more forged or altered retail sales receipts or universal product code labels. When one of these scenarios exist gives rise to third degree forgery, the state prison sentence can reach five (5) years and the fine as high as $15,000.
Consent is a defense to this charge but ratification, after the fact, is not.
Essex County Forgery Defense Attorneys
It clearly is in the best interests of anyone facing a forgery offense to seek the advice of an experienced lawyer. We possess a team of criminal attorneys who have practiced in Essex County for decades, including in the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office. Call us for immediate assistance from one of our skilled defense attorneys.