What constitutes forgery?
What is forgery?
Forgery generally refers to the making, altering, use, or possession of a false writing or document to commit a fraud. It involves an imitation of an object of value used with the intent to deceive.
Forgery can occur in many forms, such as falsifying contracts, or signing another person’s name on a check. But in order to convict someone of forgery, the prosecution must prove several elements. In this blog, we’ll go a little more in depth on what constitutes forgery.
What are the elements of forgery?
The elements of forgery are as follows:
- False writing
- Altering or making a document
- The intent to defraud
For a writing to serve as the basis for forgery charges, the writing in question must have both legal significance and be false. The document should have some form of legal significance to affect the rights of an individual. Writings with only social significance generally cannot be the subject of forgery.
Additionally, the writing must be considered false. Simply inserting false statements into a writing is typically not enough to meet this requirement, if those misrepresentations do not change the fundamental meaning of the writing.
Altering or Making the Document
Altering an existing writing may be considered forgery if the material affects a legal right. For example, forging someone else’s signature on a document is a material alteration because it misrepresents the identity of the person who signed the document, which may render serious legal consequences.
Intent to Defraud
The accused must have used the document with the intention to deceive or defraud someone or some entity. This element is crucial because it prevents those who unknowingly possessed or signed fraudulent documents, from being subject to criminal liability.
What types of documents are subject to forgery laws?
As stated above, only documents with legal significance are considered under forgery laws. One of the most commonly forged documents are personal checks.
Other commonly forged documents include deeds, corporate documents, court seals and records.
What are the legal punishments for forgery in Nebraska?
Nebraska Rev. Stat. §28-602 states that a person who commits forgery in the first degree will be charged with a Class III felony. Forgery occurs in the first degree if there is “intent to deceive or harm, he falsely makes, completes, endorses, alters, or utters a written instrument which is or purports to be, or which is calculated to become or to represent if completed.”
First degree forgery is specifically for “an issue of money, stamps, securities, or other valuable instruments issued by a government of government agency” or “an issue of stock, bonds, bank notes, or other instruments representing interests in or claims against a corporate or other organization or it’s property.”
According to §28-603, forgery in the second degree will be charged based on the amount of any proceeds wrongfully procured or intended to be procured. They are as follows:
- Class IIA felony when the amount is $5,000 or more”
- Class IV felony when the amount intended to be procured is $1,500 or more but less than $5,000
- Class I misdemeanor if the amount is $500 or more but less than $1,500
- Class II misdemeanor when the amount is less than $500.