Forgery Defense Lawyer in Birmingham, AL
Through forgery, people are able to take on others’ identities, gain access to financial institutions, or obtain property illegally. Considering the wide variety of ways an individual can use a forged document, it’s no surprise that forgery is a crime that is taken seriously at the state and federal levels.
If you are convicted of forgery, your conviction could follow you for the rest of your life. This is a situation where you absolutely need a reputable criminal defense lawyer with extensive experience in white-collar crime. Contact Kirk Drennan Law at 205-803-3500 if you have been accused of forgery or believe you are under investigation.
Forgery State and Federal Charges
At the state level, Alabama has laws regarding forgery in the first, second, third, and fourth degrees:
- Forgery in the first degree. This includes forged stamps, securities, or other instruments created by the government. It also includes stocks and bonds.
- Forgery in the second degree. A person may be accused of forgery in the second degree if they falsify a will, public record, or written document issued by a government agency.
- Forgery in the third degree. This charge covers falsified checks, drafts, or other documents that impact one’s legal rights or obligations.
- Forgery in the fourth degree. This is a general charge that covers all other written documents.
At the federal level, forgery occurs when someone makes, alters, uses, or possesses a falsified document with the intent of committing fraud. Federal law also includes penalties for those who deal in forged obligations.
The main difference between state and federal charges is the impact. The more money that’s involved and the more people or parties that are affected, the more likely the federal government is to get involved. The federal government will also take interest in a case if it occurs across state lines.
For example, someone who forges a check at a local retailer will likely face state charges. However, someone who forges a will that grants them $3 million or a document that defrauds multiple government agencies will almost certainly face federal charges.
What It Means If You’re Arrested for Forgery
If you are arrested on federal forgery charges, do not take this lightly. Federal agencies do most of their investigative work in the background to avoid alerting the subjects of their investigations. They move to indict only when they are confident about their ability to secure a conviction.
What does this mean for you? If you are arrested, the government likely already has a substantial body of evidence against you. The possibility of a criminal conviction is very, very real, and you should take it very seriously.
You should expect a thorough search of your home, your place of business, and any other property you own. Investigators are looking for any damning evidence they can use to strengthen the case against you.
You’ll also be asked to submit to an investigative interview. Do not participate in the interview with the intent of clearing up a misunderstanding or proving your innocence. Anything you do or say can only hurt you, not help you. Speak to police only in the presence of your attorney.
State and Federal Penalties
If you are convicted on state charges, penalties vary for forgery in the first, second, third, and fourth degrees. First-degree forgery is penalized with up to 20 years in prison time, while second-degree forgery may land you in prison for up to 10 years. Forgery in the third degree is a Class D felony. Forgery in the fourth degree is a misdemeanor, so the penalties are much lighter. You could also be charged with criminal possession of forged instruments.
The penalties for a federal forgery conviction are severe, especially since people accused of forgery often face other serious federal charges. Depending on the nature of the crime, a suspect may also be charged with mail fraud, wire fraud, or identity theft. You could be forced to pay tens of thousands of dollars in fines and spend up to 20 years in federal prison. You could also have to pay restitution to those who were defrauded.
Penalties are influenced by a range of factors. The more money you defraud through forgery and the more people you defraud, the steeper your penalties are likely to be. Other relevant factors include:
- The defendant’s character and previous criminal history
- If there are dependents who would be harmed by the defendant going to prison
- The need for restitution
- Sentences handed down to other people accused of the same crime
There are several possible defenses that may help you fight forgery charges. They include:
- A lack of intent. For a person to be convicted of forgery, they must have committed forgery with the intent to defraud someone. If there was no intent to defraud, the charges don’t apply.
- An inability to understand what you were doing. If someone does not have the mental capacity to understand forgery or that what they were doing was wrong, the court may be unable to convict them. For this reason, some people will intentionally coerce people who do not understand the illegality of a crime into doing it.
- Forgery committed under duress. When a suspect is forced to commit forgery under threat of physical violence or harm to a loved one, they may not be guilty of the crime.
- Mistake of fact. A person must know that a document is forged to be guilty of forgery. Consider, for example, someone who obtains a forged document from another person. The second person led the first person to believe that the document was genuine. The first person uses that document to obtain property. Once it is discovered that the document was falsified, the misled party could face charges. However, they may fight those charges if they can show that they believed the document was genuine.
Why You Need an Attorney
If you are convicted of forgery, you could spend decades of your life in prison. A felony follows you for the rest of your life, limiting your ability to work in many fields, find housing, and even vote. This is not the time to hope for the best and cross your fingers. This is the time to fight for your future with everything you have. Our team of experienced white-collar crime attorneys understands the complexity of forgery charges, and we’re here to build a defense crafted for your unique situation.
Contact Kirk Drennan Law Now for the Defense You Deserve
The earlier you connect with our team of forgery attorneys, the sooner we can start working on your case. Time is of the essence—remember, by the time of your arrest, you have likely already been a person of interest for months or even years. Get started now by contacting us online or calling us at 205-803-3500.