Third Degree Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument

Although the elements of Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument vary with the degree of the crime, the foundation for every offense stems from New York Penal Law 170.20, Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the Third Degree. Whether your arrest is processed as a Desk Appearance Ticket, or DAT, or you find yourself waiting in Brooklyn, Queens, or Manhattan Central Booking, if you are ultimately convicted of this misdemeanor offense you will have a permanent record. While certainly not the most serious of White Collar crimes, a proactive and strategic defensive approach by your criminal lawyer can make the difference between life altering consequences and those that may leave you without a blemish once your case is closed.

Definition and Elements

You are guilty of Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the Third Degree if you know that the instrument you have is counterfeit and you possess it with the goal and intent to either defraud or deceive another person. It is critical to have a thorough understanding of the Penal Law 170.20 elements beyond a cursory reading of the statute. A failure to do so could leave you in an unenviable situation. To that end, know that the law does not require a completely fake copy of the instrument in question but one that is even slightly altered, modified or changed through deletion.

Punishment and Penalty

An “A” misdemeanor, this crime is punishable by up to one year in jail. If convicted in New York City – Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, etc. – your one year in jail will be served on Rikers Island. If the same is perpetrated in a suburban county, such as in the municipalities of White Plains, Yonkers, Scarsdale, Yorktown or New Rochelle in Westchester, you would serve your sentence in the Westchester County Jail. Keep in mind that even though the risk of incarceration exists, if you are a first-time offender your attorney may be able to secure a probationary sentence or one that mandates community service. In the best scenario, your counsel can avoid a criminal conviction in its entirety.

Potential Defenses

Although there are some statutory defenses to PL 170.20, there is no “one size fits all.” Speaking somewhat generically, questions to raise and issues to challenge include the legality of your stop and / or search that led to the recovery of the contraband. Whether prosecutors can establish your knowledge of the fraudulent item and your intent to defraud another person with the same. Another line of attack may be whether the fake instrument is pretending to be something that actually exists or doesn’t exist at all. Assuming the latter, how can it purport to be an original if no such instrument exists in legitimate form? Even if no none of the strategies are available, never underestimate the power and persuasiveness of mitigation.

Example and Hypothetical

Maybe you have a fake invoice, bogus reference letters for a new job, or just about any written or other instrument you can imagine, and you offer it up as a means to trick the recipient. A common example of this offense, although technically a felony, is having a fake ID and presenting it to gain access to a club or bar.

Your Case, Your Defense, Your Future

Don’t let a fully processed arrest through central booking or a New York City DAT for Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument become a scarlet letter for future schools, employers, professional licenses and immigration officials. Retain experienced legal counsel to work through your case and determine the strongest approach to protecting you inside and outside the courtroom. No matter the circumstances, know that the former Manhattan prosecutors at Crotty Saland PC are ready to protect your rights today and your future well beyond tomorrow.

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

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