Counterfeiting has been around nearly as long as money has, with many people over the years attempting to pass off fake currency or documents as real. Some counterfeits may be easily spotted, while other professionals make fake documents or money that is nearly impossible to tell apart from the real thing without an expert opinion.
In all cases, producing, selling, or exchanging counterfeit money or securities is a Federal crime in the United States, as is being in possession of the equipment to make these kinds of fake monetary instruments. While every case is unique, our defense team explains some common tactics we may use to defend counterfeiting crimes to achieve the best outcome in your case:
What Does The Law Say?
There are several key laws dealing with counterfeiting crimes, covering counterfeiting specific items, selling, publishing, or exchanging those items, or possessing equipment to make counterfeit money or securities.
The “items” that you can counterfeit that are covered under Federal counterfeiting laws include:
- Cash money, such as banknotes and coins
- Securities such as stocks and bonds
- Patents, contracts or legal documents
- Maritime or military papers
- Other government documents
For example, 18 U.S. Code § 471 covers making counterfeit money or securities, and states that a person can be held liable if they:
“with intent to defraud, falsely makes, forges, counterfeits, or alters any obligation or other security of the United States…”
This can also include legal documents, or other government documents.
18 U.S. Code § 472 also states that publishing or attempting to sell a counterfeit item is a Federal crime, such as trying to publish or sell counterfeit stocks or bonds. A person can be held liable under this section if they:
“with intent to defraud, passes, utters, publishes, or sells, or attempts to pass, utter, publish, or sell, or with like intent brings into the United States or keeps in possession or conceals any falsely made, forged, counterfeited, or altered obligation or other security of the United States…”
Another critical law to consider is that under 18 U.S. Code § 473, which states that a felony charge can arise if a person:
“buys, sells, exchanges, transfers, receives, or delivers any false, forged, counterfeited, or altered obligation or other security of the United States, with the intent that the same be passed, published, or used as true and genuine…”
This applies to attempting to use counterfeit money, such as in a store or some kind of other commercial exchange. The critical thing to note is that the item must be “passed, published, or used as true and genuine”: meaning that if the counterfeit is clearly fake (and intended to be a knock-off or a joke) a conviction is less likely to result.
Finally, you can also be convicted of a crime if you are found in possession of items to produce counterfeit money or securities, under 18 U.S. Code § 474. This section states that it is illegal to have:
“control, custody, or possession of any plate, stone, or other thing, or any part thereof, from which has been printed, or which may be prepared by direction of the Secretary of the Treasury for the purpose of printing, any obligation or other security of the United States…”
There are other counterfeiting crimes listed in Title 18, including counterfeiting foreign currency, counterfeit rare coins, or possessing equipment to make counterfeit objects or foreign currency. No matter what type of federal counterfeiting crimes you may be under investigation for or charged with, you’ll need skilled representation on your side. Call Stechschulte Nell Law, for a seasoned federal defense attorney to review your unique case.
What are the Potential Punishments for Counterfeiting Crimes?
Crimes under 18 U.S. Code §§ 471-473 are classified as class C felonies. This means that fines for each charge can run as high as $250,000. In addition, all of these sections specify that if you are found guilty, you can be imprisoned for up to 20 years.
However, 18 U.S. Code § 474 (possessing plates or stones for printing counterfeit money or securities) is classified as a class B felony. This still potentially carries a fine of up to $250,000, but has a higher potential imprisonment term of up to 25 years.
Potential Counterfeiting Defenses
There are a number of different potential defenses that your criminal defense lawyer can raise for you, if your case is brought to trial:
- One of the primary defenses is that you had a lack of knowledge that the money was counterfeit. If you have been found with counterfeit money or securities, the first argument that can be made is that you received it without knowledge. This can be hard to prove, unless the circumstances have arisen such as in a store or retail exchange, where you have received counterfeit money as change and then later tried to spend it.
- Another potential defense is a related one: that you had no intent to defraud or pass off the counterfeit money, security, or document as real. This might apply if you were found to be making counterfeit money, but your intention was something other than fraud.
- Your lawyer can also argue that the counterfeit money or security was of such poor quality, that it could not be “passed, published, or used as true and genuine”. This can help your case if you can show that the money or security was not intended to be truly sold or exchanged, or that no reasonable person would have thought it was real. However, to be clear, it is still possible that you can be charged with attempting to sell or exchange the item, and you may still face fines or jail time.
- Other general defenses that can be raised include false accusation, lack of evidence, or failure of due process, depending on your circumstances.
Call Stechschulte Nell For Help
If you have been accused of or charged with counterfeiting crimes, the attorneys of Stechschulte Nell can advise you. Call our top-rated Tampa, FL law firm at (813) 280-1244 to speak to an experienced defense attorney. We’re available 24/7 to take your call.