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Pennsylvania Forgery & Check Fraud Lawyer

If you have been charged with forgery in Pennsylvania, including check fraud, writing bad checks, falsifying documents (electronically or by hand), you face severe punishment. Forging a signature or writing a bad check could mean a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine if you are convicted. Depending on the severity of the crime, you may also be facing a felony.

Electronic forgeries using software and technology or forging someone’s name with a pen with the intention of defrauding someone are illegal activities, which Pennsylvania treats as serious crimes. Anything from faking documents, credit cards, tokens, checks, currency and money orders can apply under the Chapter 41-01 PA Criminal Code of Forgery and Fraudulent Practices.

But just because you have been charged with a forgery or fraudulent crime, does not mean you are guilty of the crime. Check fraud or forgery must be proven with the intent to defraud another person or institution in order to be proven guilty. There are many instances when people who are accused of forgery did not intentionally defraud anyone – mistakes happen.

In order to present the best possible defense for your case, you should speak to an experienced and aggressive Criminal Fraud Attorney as soon as possible.

Attorney David Shrager provides free legal consultations and you can reach him by text message or by calling 412-969-2540.





What Counts As Forgery?

Forgery is the act of producing a copy of a document, signature, banknote or even a work of art.

Pennsylvania has strict laws against any type of forgery. According to the PA Criminal Code 41-01, a person guilty of forgery is defined as having the intent to defraud or injure someone or an institution, or has knowledge that he/she is facilitating a fraud or injury to be perpetrated by anyone, by means of:

  1. Altering a document or any financial instrument without authority.
  2. Creating, authenticating, issuing, transferring, executing, making or completing any fictitious document or financial instrument, or executing at a time or place or in a numbered sequence other than was the actual time, place or numbered sequence, or creating a copy of an original when there was no original document.
  3. Using a forged document known to be forged in a manner specified in 1 and 2 above.

Forgery can include signing another person’s name on a check, writing a bad check, cashing a bad check, altering the amount on a check, falsifying documents such as an academic transcript, deed or real estate document, falsifying corporate documents or documents used in identity theft such as a driver’s license, and even printing fake money, in which case it is called counterfeiting.

Some common types of documents that are forged include:

  • Checks
  • Money Orders
  • Academic Transcripts
  • Wills
  • Driver’s License or Identification Cards
  • Badges
  • Titles
  • Deeds
  • Currency – Paper Money, Coins (Counterfeiting)
  • Corporate Documents / Contracts
  • Credit Cards
  • Stamps
  • Bonds
  • Securities
  • Court Seals
  • Trademarks
  • Promissory Notes

Intention to Defraud by Forgery

In order for a person to be convicted of committing forgery, it must be proven by the prosecution that the defendant intended to defraud a person or institution (corporation, government institution, etc.) However, proven injury to the innocent party is not required so long as the intent to defraud can be proven.

There are many instances when a person did not know the documents they possessed or used were fraudulent, such as if a person buys a car they did not know had been stolen and possesses a fake title.

It is important to speak with a Forgery Attorney in Pennsylvania right away if you have been charged with check fraud or forging documents.

A conviction for forgery could send you to prison and cost you thousands in fines, not to mention cause you to lose your job and have a criminal record. Before speaking to anyone, you should contact an aggressive and successful criminal attorney, like David Shrager.





Penalties for Forgery – U.S. Federal Anti-Forgery Laws & PA Forgery Classification

United States Federal Anti-Forgery Penalties

Certain types of forgery may mean that you could be prosecuted both at the state level and in U.S. Federal Courts and will need a qualified Federal Crime Attorney.

For instance, identity theft, counterfeiting money, forging federal documents (immigration, military) and forging documents with the intent to defraud the federal government are all prosecuted under federal jurisdiction.

If forgery occurred in two or more states (such as in Pennsylvania and West Virginia), you will be federally prosecuted.

The United States Criminal Code lists 45 statutes covering fraud, so it is important to find a knowledgeable and experienced Federal Crime Attorney to defend your charges. Federal crimes come with serious consequences, upon conviction. If you have been charged for allegedly committing a federal crime, contact Shrager Defense Attorneys today.

Penalties for a federal conviction of forgery depend on the severity of the crime, but if you are convicted, you will have a felony on your criminal record, which can be accessed by future employers, landlords and lenders, making the future very difficult in finding loans, jobs and housing.

A conviction for forgery may require paying restitution (paying the money back), but you could also face prison time. It is also possible that your assets could be seized and sold.

Pennsylvania Penalties for Forgery Convictions

A forgery conviction could be rated as either a felony or a misdemeanor in Pennsylvania. While a misdemeanor is a very serious criminal charge, a felony typically comes with tougher penalties and longer prison sentencing.

Depending on the value of the alleged forged documents or fraudulent check, you may face prosecution only in Pennsylvania, but convictions are still tough – from up to 90 days in jail to up to ten years in prison.

See below for PA’s sentencing guidelines. If you have a prior conviction for a similar offense, you may receive tougher sentencing than what is listed below.

Second Degree Felony: If the forgery involves documents issued by the government, such as paper money or postage stamps, or if the documents involve an interest in a property or business (bonds, stocks, etc.) then you may be facing a second-degree felony conviction. Penalty: Up to ten years in prison and a $25,000 fine.

Third Degree Felony: If the documents involved in the forgery pertain to a legal relationship, such as a will, contract, deed, bank check or other legal document, then a third degree felony conviction may apply. Penalty: Up to seven years in prison and a $15,000 fine.

First Degree Misdemeanor: Basic forgery and forging personal checks and cashing bad check are typically considered first-degree misdemeanors in Pennsylvania, but it depends on the value of the forged check. If the value is over $1,000, a first degree misdemeanor will apply. Penalty: Up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Second Degree Misdemeanor: If the fraudulent check was between $500-$999 dollars, you face a third degree misdemeanor. Penalty: Up to three years in prison.

Third Degree Misdemeanor: If the fraudulent check was between $200-$500 dollars, you face a third degree misdemeanor. Penalty: Up to one year in prison.

Summary Offense: An example of a penalty of summary offense would be cashing a bad check under $200. Penalty: Up to 90 days in jail





Defending Against Forgery Charges

There are two main strategies a criminal attorney can take to prove a person’s innocence in forgery cases. The first is gather and present evidence that a lack of intent to defraud or injure exists and the second is to prove there was a lack of knowledge by the defendant that a document was forged.

In other words, if a person thought they had the authorization to sign or alter a document, then they were not aware they were defrauding anyone – they had no intent to defraud.

If you were mistaken about your right to alter or create a writing then you lacked intent to commit the crime, and your case could be dismissed.

Other defenses could include be a case of mistaken identity or that a crime never occurred to begin with.

Defending Against Bad Check Charges

Several defenses come to play when proving innocence against fraudulent check charges.

Some examples include: if someone else was involved in the fraud, a post-dated check after the date it was presented, a stop payment before being notified of insufficient funds, temporary credit extensions. All of these defenses could be proven in order for your charges to be dropped.

Pennsylvania Forgery Attorneys Who Fight for Your Rights

Our attorneys have years of experience in the federal court system as well as throughout Pennsylvania courts. We are aggressive attorneys who provide the best possible legal counsel to all of our clients.

If you are facing check fraud or forgery charges, call our attorneys for a free legal consultation. Attorney David Shrager can be reached by phone or text message on his personal cell phone at 412-969-2540. 

At Shrager Defense Attorneys we do everything possible to attack your charges and fight for your rights.

Attorney David J. Shrager is an experienced attorney who has compassion for his clients, their families and their situation. He is well respected among his peers and colleagues in the Pittsburgh legal community.


FREE Legal Consultation

Call or Text 412-969-2540 right now for a FREE initial legal consultation.

Speak directly with David J. Shrager 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Shrager Defense Attorneys in Pittsburgh, PA will attack your criminal charges in order to protect your good name. Have a sound and solid case prepared by David J. Shrager and his legal team so they can fight for your rights.