First Degree Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument

Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the First Degree, the “counterfeit money” statute, is unequivocally the most serious and dangerous of New York’s Forged Instrument crimes. In fact, if you are investigated or arrested for this felony, don't be surprised if you not only receive a knock on the door from the police, such as the NYPD, but the Secret Service as well. For that reason, as well as the permanency of a conviction and the potential length of incarceration, New York Penal Law 170.30 demands your immediate attention and response. Fortunately, however, if you heed the advice and counsel of your White Collar fraud lawyer, you can potentially secure a downward departure to a lesser charge, avoid incarceration and even maintain your clean record.

Definition and Elements

NY Penal Law 170.30 shares the same basic elements with the other degrees of Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument. First, you must possess an instrument that you know to be fake whether it is falsely created, changed, altered, etc. Second you must possess the same with the intent to deceive or trick another. What distinguishes the First Degree offense from the lesser felony and misdemeanor charges is the type of object or item. That is, instead of a credit card, passport, will, deed or something that creates a legal right, for example, the falsified item must purport to be money, stamps, securities or any valuable instrument issued by the government or a governmental agency. Alternatively, the contraband can also falsely represent an issuance of stock, bonds or other material representing interest in or claims against a corporation.

Penalties and Punishment

As a class “C” felony, prison may not be mandatory upon conviction for First Degree Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument, but your potential sentence is as great as five to fifteen years. Unlike the lesser charges that allow for a one year or less sentence in a city or county jail like Rikers Island, such a sentence is not available if you are convicted for having bogus stamps, counterfeit currency and the like. A judge could sentence you to one to three years in prison as the minimum imprisonment but not the one year “bullet” or less. Other viable sentences exist including probation, community service, fines and a conditional discharge. Remember that no matter what lesser offense you plea, barring a violation or some form of a dismissal, you will have a permanent record.

Possible Defenses

Glossing over the “standard” defenses, if such a term exists, your lawyer’s line of attacking the District Attorney’s case will likely include reviewing how the NYPD or police officers recovered counterfeit item, challenging grounds by which the prosecution intends to prove your knowledge of whatever you had was fictitious, arguing you lacked the goal to defraud, and even moving to suppress any statement or admission you are alleged to have made. More specifically, and relating back to these points, if you had one bogus $100 bill, did you present it to a cashier? Was it among many other bills of the same denomination? Was it clearly so fake that no reasonable person could believe you intended to tick another or was it such a good copy that you were a victim and possibly duped? When and where did you get the money and is there any acknowledgment on your part, even an apology, that points to an admission?

Whatever your defense, determining the best strategy to make it successful, and as early in the process as possible, is secondary to retaining the right legal advocate to best ensure protect your rights.

Associated Crimes and Offenses

Other than Forgery, the White Collar crimes commonly associated with First Degree Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument are Grand Larceny and Criminal Possession of Stolen Property when counterfeit money is involved to make purchases, and Enterprise Corruption if there is a greater scheme and organization. Each of these felonies range from a class “E,” and up to four years incarceration, to a class “B,” and up to twenty-five years “Upstate.”

Examples and Hypotheticals

While there is no pre-determined guide as to how these cases play out, investigations, arrest, and trials often manifest themselves in two ways. The first of these routinely involves a person with some counterfeit cash on his or her person. In these cases, depending on the amount of bogus bills recovered from the accused or as part of the transaction, there is no proof of a greater scheme. Here, the inquiry may end and it is a relatively straightforward prosecution even if you have viable defenses. The second way defense attorneys see these prosecutions involves larger schemes and may even involve search warrants, wiretaps and RICO type cases. In these matters, whether its cash, stamps or something else, Enterprise Corruption may be of greater concern because there is a belief that you are a part or a leader of an organization committing these and other offenses on a far larger scale.

Your Case, Your Defense, Your Future

If you want to put yourself in the best position to avoid prison or a felony record, maintain your professional licenses, and protect your visa, green card or other immigration status, educate yourself on the law and consult with knowledgeable and experienced counsel. Hoping and wishing the case away or ignoring the direct and collateral consequences to your predicament will lead you down a path to failure. Whether there is a procedural, evidentiary, factual or mitigation defense, the legal advocates and former Manhattan prosecutors at Crotty Saland PC have the real world and practical skills to assist you in fighting these charges and all those involving fraud.

Felony arrests of this magnitude do not just disappear by themselves. Don’t give law enforcement an upper hand. Start your defense now.

Call our criminal lawyers and former Manhattan prosecutors at 212.312.7129 or contact us online today.

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