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Forgery in the Second Degree

A relatively “easy” way to have a basic understanding of Second Degree Forgery in New York is to first examine Forgery in the Third Degree. Once armed with that foundation, add specific written instruments and you will have the construct of New York Penal Law 170.10, Forgery in the Second Degree. Unfortunately, as easy as that may seem, the reality is that grasping this crime and understanding your arrest charges will not be that easy for you, a defendant investigated for or charged with Second Degree Forgery. In fact, the same holds true if you are an attorney who does not regularly practice defending clients against Forgery and Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument crimes. If you decide to fight a felony Forgery arrest or allegation with limited knowledge or with counsel who is not versed in the legal and practical applications and defense to this fraud crime, be advised that a first time offender can face up to four years in prison if convicted for one count of NY PL 170.10.

The Basic Premise of Second Degree Forgery in New York

Like its less serious, but potentially debilitating, sister crime of Forgery in the Third Degree, New York Penal Law 170.05, you are only guilty of NY PL 170.10 if you have the intent to defraud, injure or deceive another. Further, with this intent you must also falsely make, complete or alter a written instrument. These written instruments, however, are of a more specific variety than those found in the misdemeanor crime. These written instruments must actually be or purport to be:

  1. A deed, will codicil, contract, assignment, commercial instrument, credit card or other instrument which does or may evidence, create, transfer or terminate or otherwise affect a legal status, right, interest or obligation.

    Reading this definition should make it overwhelmingly clear that many items fall into this subsection. As a result, many Second Degree Forgery crimes are prosecuted pursuant to this theory.

  2. A public record, or an instrument filed or required or authorized by law to be filed in or with a public office or public servant.

  3. A written instrument official issued or created by a public office, public servant or governmental instrumentality.

  4. Part of an issue of tokens, public transportation transfers, certificates or other articles manufactured and designed for use as symbols of valuable usable in place of money or the purchase of property or services.

    An example under this section of Second Degree Forgery may include a Metro Card.

  5. A prescription of a duly licensed physician or other person authorized to issue the same for any drug.

    Not limited to the following example, but forging the name of a physician, drafting a fake prescription pad or even altering the number or amount of a particular drug would violate this subsection of Forgery in the Second Degree.

It is worthwhile noting that the same written instrument in a PL 170.10 case can form the basis of multiple violations of the Penal Law. In turn, this means that if you forge a passport of the United States, People’s Republic of China or even a drivers license of any state, you may violate multiple subsections at the same time including, for example, NY PL 170.10(1) and NY PL 170.10(2). While the time you face would not be consecutive if it stemmed from the same written instrument, it gives the prosecution multiple angles to better ensure a conviction.

Defenses to Forgery in the Second Degree

As noted in the other Forgery sections and the New York Forgery Information page of this website, it is often easier to establish a Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument crime than it is a Forgery. How can Assistant District Attorneys establish you committed Forgery if they did not see you do so and they merely have the finished product? If you never used the instrument, can prosecutors prove beyond a reasonable doubt you had the perquisite and legally defined “intent to defraud?” Was a search warrant executed? Were any devices to create forged instrument recovered? Even more interesting in the right set of facts, can prosecutors secure a conviction for both Forgery and Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument for the same item? It is central and essential to discuss these issues and possible defenses with your criminal lawyer.

Whatever the circumstances and whatever the facts, whether it be a fraudulent signed prescription pad, a falsified credit card or some form of a fake identification, if you are caught in the act of altering, deleting, changing or creating this written instrument, it would not be shocking if you found yourself facing a state prison sentence of up to four years. In fact, the law mandates this possible punishment. For many people, even if jail is not on the table, a criminal record can and will end their careers and jeopardize their legal status in the United States.

Additional Forgery Resources:

Take the time to read the for Forgery and Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument content. Review the New York Forgery Information page. Take the steps now to safely navigate the criminal justice system and keep your life and family moving in the right direction. However you and your counsel proceed, remember that there is no substitute for experience, knowledge and advocacy.

Call the New York City Forgery Defense Lawyer and former Assistant District Attorneys at (212) 312-7129 or contact us online today.

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