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NEW YORK FORGERY CRIMES: NY PL 170.05, NY PL 170.10 & NY PL 170.15

Ranging from a misdemeanor crime with a sentence as high as one year in jail to the more serious felony offenses that carry hefty punishments of up to four or seven years in state prison, Forgery crimes in New York are as serious as they are diverse. The manner and means by which you can commit Forgery or it’s “identical twin” crime of Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument are vast. Tied together, the crimes of Forgery and Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument are not only significant in and of themselves as sole counts of an arrest or indictment, but prosecuted alongside other New York White Collar crimes their potential impact to your life is well beyond distressing. In relation to the various crimes codified in the New York Penal Law, Forgery, regardless of its degree, is an offense that demands representation from a Forgery lawyer or criminal defense attorney who is familiar with practical courtroom side of enforcement as well as the legal background and decisions that define the crimes.

What Constitutes a Written Instrument for the Purpose of Forgery in New York

Before parsing out First Degree Forgery (New York Penal Law 170.15), Second Degree Forgery (New York Penal Law 170.10) and Third Degree Forgery (New York Penal Law 170.05), there are certain baseline definitions and terms that your criminal lawyer must master and that you, as an accused, should understand. Do not think that in order to be guilty of any degree of Forgery you must copy or replicate something of great value. Further, don’t be misguided into believing that whatever fraudulent or fake document you construct or create must contain an identical signature of a particular victim. For better or worse, Forgery’s legal and criminal grasp extends well beyond what you, as a non-New York criminal lawyer, may perceive, but must always involve a “written instrument.”

Written Instrument: Regardless of what degree of Forgery you are investigated or arrested for, your Forgery must be of a “written instrument.” According to the New York criminal code, this type of instrument or article includes a wide array of items that can be used to your advantage or the disadvantage of another person. Obviously, the scope is enormous and can include computer data or any other articles that convey or embody evidence of value, right, privilege or identification.

As you can see from above, a “written instrument” may be many things from a drivers license or contract to currency or a receipt.

Must Forgery Result in a Complete Written Instrument to Satisfy Every Criminal Element

The very short and quick answer is that you are guilty of Forgery whether or not the written instrument you alter or fake is completed or not (subject to the prosecution proving all the elements beyond a reasonable doubt). Again, the New York Penal Law defines certain terms that are applicable and critical to understand. What the criminal code of New York requires is that you alter or create a “complete written instrument” or an “incomplete written instrument.”

Complete Written Instrument: A complete written instrument is best defined by what it is called. In other words, the altered or fake deed or passport you are accused of falsely making must purport to be a genuine written instrument fully drawn with respect to every essential feature. The law further provides that an endorsement, attestation or similar signature is considered not only a complete written instrument by itself, but also part of the main instrument in which it is associated or attached.
Incomplete Written Instrument: Just like a complete written instrument, an incomplete written instrument is exactly what it seems to be. That is, it contains some matter or content but requires additional information to make it complete.

Remember, the law provides for the same punishment whether or not the Forgery is compete or incomplete. You are no less guilty in the eyes of a judge or Assistant District Attorney if you draft a completely fake bank statements from JP Morgan or Citibank or you merely alter or delete some numbers or dollars contained within the four corners of the bank statement.

Does it Matter if You Delete, Alter, Make or Complete a Written Instrument

The law of Forgery in New York does not place any more emphasis on falsely making, altering or completing a written instrument. Whether you insert new matter, delete content or create something new, if you violate the other elements of Forgery you are guilty of this crime.

Understanding Criminal Intent

For non-lawyers as well as lawyers nominally versed in the New York criminal law and Forgery crimes, understanding the intent element of Forgery can be difficult. Although there is a significant amount of case law defining the intent requirement, even if you did alter or create a fake contract, passport or United States currency, to be guilty of any degree of Forgery you must also possess an intent to defraud or deceive another person. Often time, this element is very clear to prosecutors or a fact finder while other times it is convoluted at best.

Defenses to Forgery in New York: What Should You do if Investigated or Arrested

Like human fingerprints, no two Forgery crimes are the same. Certainly the allegations may share common characteristics and even the same written instrument, but how a prosecutor attacks the case and your specific conduct will vary. Can an Assistant District Attorney bump the crime from a misdemeanor to a felony? Was there a bad search or confession that your criminal lawyer can suppress? What is the “damage” in terms of economic loss and what makes you, as an accused, sympathetic even if the arrest charges are all true? Legally, can a jury or a judge convict you of both Forgery and Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument as to the same written instrument?

Whatever degree of Forgery you may face, each one of these crimes can result in incarceration. Even without jail or prison, medical, legal, teaching and financial certifications and licenses can be suspended or revoked. Whether you are a professional or just a hard working man or woman trying to support your family, careers and futures can be destroyed irreparably. Protect yourself now. Protect yourself in the future. Contact the New York criminal lawyers and former Manhattan prosecutors at Saland Law to move your defense forward. There is no substitute for experience, advocacy and knowledge.

Additional Forgery Resources:

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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