Is Forging a Check Signature Illegal?

Putting someone else’s signature on any kind of document with legal significance constitutes forgery. This is because when a person puts his or her signature on something, it’s typically for some sort of legally binding transaction such as signing a check or important paperwork.  


Our attorneys explain what Florida law defines as forgery, its penalties, and what to do if you have been accused of or charged with forgery.  


Key takeaways: 


  • Forgery is a third-degree felony in the state of Florida. 
  • Criminal forgery must include the intent to defraud someone. If you are facing a Florida felony charge, you need a defense attorney experienced in forgery cases who will advocate for you. 





What Does the Law Say About Forgery? 


Forgery is committed when someone makes, falsifies, alters, or counterfeits any document carrying legal implications with the intent to defraud or injure another person or entity.  



Under Florida Statute 831.01, forgery is a  

third-degree felony in the state of Florida. 



Forgery includes, but is not limited to: 


  • Public records 
  • Checks 
  • Bank bills 
  • Promissory notes 
  • Wills 
  • Contracts 
  • Property deeds 
  • Insurance policies 
  • Financial documents  
  • And more 


It is important to note that criminal forgery must include the intent to defraud without the other party’s permission.  



Learn More > What Constitutes Check Forgery?  



What Is Uttering Forged Instruments? 


In Florida, it is also a crime to “utter” (meaning to offer as truthful) any forged document. Florida Statute 831.02 states that a person must have the intent to injure or defraud someone and must also have knowledge that a document has been forged or altered. The crime of uttering forged instruments is also a third-degree felony. 



What Is Counterfeiting Private Labels? 


Florida law also prohibits manufacturing, possessing, or selling counterfeit labels.  


For example: 


  • Someone who makes fake designer handbags with phony labels could be convicted of manufacturing counterfeit labels 
  • A street vendor who knowingly sells counterfeit labels could also be found guilty of a crime 


However, possessing counterfeit labels is only a crime if a person intends to distribute the goods with counterfeit labels. This means someone who purchases a counterfeit bag to keep would likely avoid criminal charges. 


Florida Statute 831.032 states that this crime will be punished more harshly if the goods involved retail for more than $2,500 or if someone was injured or killed due to the counterfeit label(s).  


An example would be counterfeit labels on medicine or food that results in severe illness, injury, or death. The punishment for Counterfeiting Private Labels can range from a misdemeanor up to a first-degree felony. 



Does Intention Affect a Forgery Charge? 


Let’s say, for example, that you are behind on some bills, so you decide to “borrow” some checks from your roommate. The checks you write total $850, and you sign your roommate’s name on them. You eventually tell your friend that you “borrowed” the money and will pay it back as soon as you get paid at work. 


Irrespective of why you needed money or your intention to return the money, you could still be charged with and convicted of forgery. This is because you used your roommate’s signature on a legal document with the intention of defrauding your roommate’s bank and the institutions accepting the check, believing your roommate authorized them. You also gained money while causing a loss to your roommate. 



What Is the Punishment for Forgery? 


Forgery is a third-degree felony in the state of Florida.  


The offense is punishable by: 


  • Up to five years in prison 
  • Five years of probation 
  • And a $5,000 fine 



Forgery is a white-collar crime and assigned a Level 1 severity risk  

ranking under Florida’s Criminal Punishment Code.  



A Florida judge may opt to sentence a defendant convicted of forgery to probation or up to the maximum sentence of five years in prison. 




Learn More > Charged with a Florida White-Collar Crime: What Now?  




Facing a Forgery Charge?  


If you are facing forgery charges in Florida, you need a defense attorney experienced in forgery cases who will advocate for you. Stechshulte Nell, Attorneys at Law, will fight for the best possible outcome for you.  


Contact us today for a case review at 813-280-1244.  


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