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Elements of Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument

Regardless of the type of written instrument in your possession, you are guilty of New York Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument, prior to enhancements, if you have knowledge that the instrument in your possession is forged and you possess that instrument with the intent to defraud or deceive another person. This general description is found in Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the Third Degree, but is applicable to all degrees. While no substitute for a New York criminal lawyer versed in Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument statutes, laws and crimes, the following should give the basics as to this offense.

Intent to Defraud in a Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument Arrest

One of the critical elements of any Forged Instrument arrest, indictment or trial is the presence of “intent to defraud.” Without this intent there can be no conviction. Certainly, it may be easier for prosecutors to prove this element beyond a reasonable doubt if you try to pass a fake check as opposed to that same check being deep down in your pocket, but if you don’t know what “intent to defraud” means then you cannot communicate with your criminal lawyer to properly confront a New York Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument arrest regardless of the degree of the crime.

In the eyes of the New York criminal law – judges, prosecutors and criminal attorneys – “intent to defraud” is established when you, as the defendant, intend to lead another into error or to create a disadvantage. This terminology was established in People v. Briggins, a key court decision. Leading another into disadvantage or error is fairly broad. Another criminal decision in New York that has helped further define this phrase was People v. Kase. In Kase, the defendant did not defraud for the purpose of getting property or anything else in return. Instead, the false documents and information was filed with the goal of disrupting a governmental agency’s ability to function properly.

Because without an “intent to defraud” there can be no conviction for Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument pursuant to New York Penal Law 170.20 (Third Degree Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument), New York Penal Law 170.25 (Second Degree Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument) or New York Penal Law 170.30 (First Degree Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument), consult with your legal counsel as soon as possible to ascertain whether or not attacking this element, or lack thereof, is a strong avenue of defense.

An Instrument or Not: What Items will Count

Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument crimes are broad. They can include an enormous variety of items, instruments and documents. However, the item that is forged must be a “written instrument.” While you and I might generally believe “written instruments” are those we have to physically draft in writing, the New York Penal Law specifically defines this element and gives a much more broad definition.

According to the New York Penal Law, a “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.”

Certainly, the above definition goes well beyond the every day perception of a “written instrument.”

Falsely Complete vs. Falsely Alters in a Possession of a Forged Instrument Case

At what point did you cross the line? Did you have to be in possession of a completely fake deed, contract, passport, license, diploma, credit card or other instrument? Assuming the other elements of NY PL 170.20, NY PL 170.25 or NY PL 170.30 have been satisfied, is a mere scratching off of a date of birth or serial number or changing of the same sufficient to violate these statutes? The answer to the above question is simple and it is in the affirmative. Any alteration and modification, with the proper intent and knowledge, is sufficient. The law makes no distinction between, for example, a legitimate credit card re-encoded with another account information and a credit card that is completely created fraudulently.

To obtain a firm understanding on the crimes of Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument, don’t rely on what you hear from friends or non-criminal lawyers. In fact, don’t merely rely on what you read online. As detailed as the information presented here is, it is no substitute from speaking with an experienced New York criminal attorney or Forged Instrument lawyer. Attempting to navigate the waters of a New York fraud prosecution on your own or with inexperienced counsel cannot only result in your imprisonment, but with a criminal record that will haunt you forever.

Protect yourself today and well into the future. Contact the New York criminal lawyers and former Manhattan prosecutors at Saland Law to put your defense into motion.

Call our New York criminal lawyers & Forged Instrument attorneys at (212) 312-7129 or contact us online today.

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