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Second Degree Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument

While an arrest for any degree of Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in New York is a crime punishable by incarceration and a permanent criminal record, the “real danger” begins when the offense is a felony. A White Collar defense attorney versed in the Penal Law can explain the difference between a felony or misdemeanor, but key to mounting a successful strategy to an indictment or other prosecution for Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the Second Degree, New York Penal Law 170.25, is understanding how the elements diverge from the lesser misdemeanor and pose a far greater risk to all facets of your life.

Definition and Elements

Much like other degrees, NY Penal Law 170.25 has the same basic premise and legal elements. First, you must possess an instrument that you know to be fake or false with the intent to defraud or deceive some other individual. To qualify for a felony prosecution and a potential indictment, however, other Forged Instrument elements are necessary. The following is a brief and general list of these types of purported items or instruments that you must possess:

  • A deed, will contract, commercial document, credit card or any item that may create, transfer or terminate or otherwise affect a legal right, interest or obligation. This category is extremely broad.
  • A public record or any type filed or required to be filed by law with a public office or with a public servant.
  • A written instrument officially issued or created by a public office or government agency. Fake ID and passport cases routinely fall into this category.
  • Certificates or other types of objects, such as a MetroCard (manipulation of the physical card is often enough for a felony), manufactured and designed for use as a symbol of value useable in place of money for the purchase of property or services.
  • A physician's prescription or similar material used for the taking or administering of drugs.

Although there are very specific types of instruments that “bump up” the crime to a felony, it is important to note that there are some generic terms, such as “affect a legal right,” that allow a Grand Jury to elevate charges.

Punishment and Penalties

A class “D" felony, PL 170.25 carries with it a potential sentence of up to seven years in prison for anyone - even a first-time violator. Simply, a conviction of this nature is far from trivial. A defendant with a prior felony record in the previous ten years would also face a minimum of two to four years incarceration. Assuming you fall into the clean record category, a judge would have the authority to sentence you to lesser time, such as thirty days or a year in jail, a term of probation, community service, fines or some other type of condition.

Potential Defenses

While there is a narrowly tailored statutory defense to possessing a fraudulent instrument, it is more likely that your legal advocate will have to examine the available evidence to formulate the best strategy. From confronting the NYPD or other police agency on how they found or secured the forged item, whether prosecutors can prove you knew it was falsified or completely fake, and how the District Attorney is going to establish your intent, there are many viable avenues to pursue depending on the specific allegations.

Examples and Hypotheticals

If you altered the legal language on a contract to sell a home or a have a credit card that is completely fictitious or it is otherwise a real card in your name but the chip has stolen account information of another person, both of these examples would expose you to felony prosecution.

Associated Crimes and Offenses

Your possession of an instrument that is allegedly fraudulently created or manipulated may allow prosecutors to charge you with multiple crimes depending how, even if at all, it is used. These offenses are routinely associated with others White Collar crimes including Identity Theft, Forgery and Grand Larceny.

Your Case, Your Defense, Your Future

Regardless of the number of counts you may face, two important components of this charge should resonate. Prison and a permanent non-expungeable felony record are always possibilities, the latter being far greater. Do you have a defense to the charges? If not, can you mitigate your conduct? Even in the best case scenario, what are the immigration consequences of your arrest and conviction , professional licensure, or mere employment with NYC or other public or private sector employer?

The founding New York criminal lawyers and former Manhattan prosecutors at Saland Law understand that each case is as unique as the individual accused of Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the Second Degree. Not only do we have the courtroom experience and legal training to confront these offenses on your behalf, we will diligently work to identify and put your best defense into motion. It is not just your liberty that is in jeopardy, but your future, integrity and livelihood.

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

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