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What’s Forgery Anyway? It’s More Than Fake Signatures

Posted on February 3, 2014 by Mintzer Law

Some people can run afoul of the laws against because they do not realize or understand how far-reaching the Texas Penal Code is in describing the acts that can result in an arrest and prosecution. Forgery is a serious offense punishable by a jail or prison sentence and hefty fines, so it is important to be aware of the conduct that can get you into serious legal trouble.

What is the Crime of Forgery in Texas?

Forgery is more than creating or altering a false written document. The definition of “writing” under the law is much broader than people might believe. The Texas Penal Code includes the following when referring to something that is written:

• Any printed or recorded information
• Credit cards
• Money tokens and coins
• Stamps, seals or badges
• Trademarks

For example, a person who sells an article of clothing with a fake designer label can be charged with committing the crime of forgery in Texas. The same is true of a person who alters a coin or paper currency to make it appear to be old and rare in an effort to sell it to a dealer or collector for more than the item is actually worth.

Forgery and Intent

Forgery requires intent to defraud or harm another person. Forgery is not a crime that a person commits by accident or because of a misunderstanding. Intent in Texas involves conduct that a person consciously engages in with the objective or desire to commit the act constituting the crime. For instance, proving that a person altered a coin might be enough to establish commission of the crime of forgery. The government would have to prove that the alteration was intended to deceive a buyer into thinking the coin was rare.

Forgery Penalties in Texas

The severity of the penalties a judge can impose when sentencing a person convicted of forgery under the Texas Penal Code depends upon whether the charge is a misdemeanor or a felony. Forgery is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine that does not exceed $4,000.

If the offense includes the forgery of a will, deed, credit card, check or other specified documents, the statute makes the crime a state jail felony punishable by from 180 days to two years of confinement and a fine up to $10,000. The crime is a felony in the third degree if the writing involves stamps, money, securities or a government record. The penalties for conviction of forgery in the third degree include imprisonment for at least two years up to a maximum of 10 years and a fine up to a maximum of $10,000. For more information regarding forgery penalties, contact Rand Mintzer by calling 713-862-8880.