Florida law enforcement and prosecutors take accusations of check forgery seriously. This is a criminal act of “dishonesty” which can be classified as a third-degree felony, which is punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
If you or someone you love is under investigation for check forgery, it is in your best interest to seek out an experienced Florida criminal defense attorney. While the charges you face can be serious, the right attorney can make a difference in the outcome of your case. Read more about check forgery in Florida.
What is Check Forgery?
According to Florida law, an individual commits check forgery when they falsely make, alter, forge, counterfeit, or produce a document with legal standing. It also applies if someone utters, passes or tenders fake banknotes, is thereby guilty of having committed a third-degree felony.
This type of fraud typically happens in three ways:
Forged signatures on real checks. This occurs most commonly when a blank check is stolen, the accused forges the account holder’s name on a check and uses it to acquire goods or to cash the check.
Check washing. This process involves stealing a check while in transit from one party to another (typically through the mail). The forger then erases all inked information except for the signature, then changes the payee’s name to his or her own.
The forgery charges may have stemmed from the belief that the dollar amount on the check was increased before it is cashed at the bank.
Fake checks. This is the least common form of check forgery; however, it is the most difficult to detect. In these cases, the alleged forger creates a check with fake account and routing numbers, then the check is passed off as a legitimate check in exchange for goods or cash.
With the Intent to Defraud…
Also considered a crime of dishonesty is uttering a forged instrument, a.k.a. presenting the forged check (to a bank or store) with the intent to defraud. Under current Florida state law, uttering is a criminal offense when:
- A false, forged, or altered instrument is presented as true.
- The defendant knows the instrument to be false, altered, forged, or counterfeited.
- There is intent to injure or defraud.
It is important to note that only intent to injure or defraud is required for a conviction. For example, if a forged check was presented at a bank and the bank detects forgery prior to actually having cashed the check, the prosecution may argue that the crime was still committed because the forged check was presented with the intent to defraud.
Penalties for Check Forgery
A conviction for check forgery may lead to both prison time and hefty fines. However, the level of offense for forging a check is determined by the amount of money that was involved. In addition to a jail or prison sentence, a conviction will also appear on a criminal record.
Penalties may include:
- First offense where the check was under $150 is a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail
- First offense where the check was over $150 is a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison and fines up to $5,000
The above penalties are for a check forgery crime in the state of Florida. If the forged check travels out of state or is involved with a business across state lines, the crime may then be considered a federal offense. Stechschulte Nell can defend your check forgery case; call 813-280-1244 to speak with a legal specialist.
Check Forgery Defense
Criminal defense attorney Ben Stechschulte has the knowledge and experience necessary to defend your state or federal check forgery case. For more information on our Tampa, FL law firm, please call us today at 813-280-1244 or contact us online for a free case review.