Pennsylvania’s definition of Forgery may be found at 18 PACS 4101.  In its most basic form, forgery is criminal fraud when a writing is involved.  In other words, if you are charged with Forgery, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is alleging that you intended to defraud someone through a writing, like forging a signature.

More specifically, 18 PACS 4101 says that you are guilty of Forgery if the Prosecution is able to prove that you were involved with a fraudulent writing in one of three ways.

3 Ways to Commit Forgery

  1.  The first way to commit forgery is very simple to explain:  that you altered a writing of another without his/her permission.  This means the writing already exists, and you simply change part of it.  Imagine that someone gives you a check for work you performed.  The check is for $100 and the person who gave you the check has really bad handwriting.  But, when you get to the bank, you attempt to add another “0” to the number to make it $1000.  You have altered an existing writing.A “Writing” under the Forgery statute includes printing or any other method of recording information, money, coins, tokens, stamps, seals, credit cards, badges, trademarks, electronic signatures, and other symbols of value, right, privilege, or identification.
  2. The second way to commit Forgery is more involved.  This involves you actually creating the writing, not just altering it.  You may create the writing by actually making it yourself, completing one already started, executing a writing, authenticating a writing, or by issuing or transferring any writing and claiming that it is the act of another who did not actually authorize the act.  This second way to commit Forgery also includes making claims that a writing was created a certain way , or to be a copy of an original when no such original exists.An example of this Forgery would be you steeling a blank check out of your boss’s checkbook and writing $1000 on it.  Then, taking it to the bank and attempting to cash it.
  3. The  third way to commit Forgery requires you to take a writing that you know was created through Numbers 1 or 2 above and trying to use it.  For example, you are issued a check for $100.  You leave it on the kitchen table and your friend alters the check to read $1000.  You know he altered the check and you take it to the bank to cash it.

Grading the Offense of Forgery

The crime of Forgery comes with three levels of severity.  If your offense involves money or a government issued document, you may be guilty of a felony in the second degree.  If your Forgery involves legal relationships, such as contracts, wills, deeds, releases, or commercial instruments, you may be guilty of a felony in the third degree.  Finally, any other Forgery is a misdemeanor in the first degree.

Common Defense to Forgery

The most common defense to Forgery is to show permission.  If you notice in most of the examples above, the key is that you altered or created a writing without another’s permission.  Another defense is that you did not have the required intent or knowledge to commit the crime.  In other words, you altered or created a writing by mistake or with the assumption that you were given permission.  Finally, there is always the defense that you simply did not commit the crime that the Prosecution alleges.

What Should You Do Now?

As with any other criminal charges, you should contact my office immediately.  Defending the crime of Forgery may require witnesses and alibis.  If we are going to use another person to help defend you, I am required to tell the Prosecution significantly before trial.  Also, the Prosecution must produce the writing at trial to prove its case against you.  But, I have to ask for a copy of its evidence if I want to see the writing before trial.  Your case will begin with a Preliminary Hearing, and that is your first chance to fight your charges.  Don’t wait until it is too late.  Give me a call, 412-209-0657.