The crime of forgery is defined under Massachusetts state law as the act of forging or falsifying another individual’s handwriting or expressing any type of untrue statement with malice or prejudice with the idea to defraud another person. Forgery in this state is often seen as a white collar crime as there is no violence involved and is done with deception to gain financially. In Massachusetts, forgery is a type of property crime that can involve alteration of many types of documents. However the crime of forgery is viewed, it is a significant one that is serious investigated by Massachusetts law enforcement and prosecuted by the state courts with vigor.
Forgery Definition in Massachusetts
In Massachusetts, forgery is defined as intent to injure, defraud, falsely make, alter, forge or counterfeit the following types of documents:
- Public records
- Promissory notes
Any alteration or forgery done in Massachusetts of the above documents will result in felony charges. In this state, a forgery crime is defined as a concurrent felony crime that is described in Massachusetts General Laws c. 267.1. (Malegislature.gov). It may be prosecuted in the superior or district courts.
At the federal level, the law details even more classifications of forgery than at the Massachusetts state level for potential federal prosecution. Depending on the forgery crime, the defendant could face both state and federal charges.
Forgery Punishments in Massachusetts
A conviction for forgery in Massachusetts can net you a term in state prison of up to 10 years, or a jail sentence in a house of corrections for up to two years. You may also be required to pay court fines and fees, as well as supervised probation with mandatory reporting to your probation officer.
Below are some of the other common forgery crimes in Massachusetts and possible punishments:
- Uttering false records and related documents: State prison sentence for up to 10 years.
- Forgery of land court seal documents and similar: State prison sentence of up to 10 years.
- Forgery of railroad tickets: State prison sentence of up to three years, plus a fine up to $500.
- Forgery of records, certificates and returns: State prison sentence of up to 10 years.
- Forgery of notes, certificate or bills of credit issued by state treasury: Life in prison.
- Forgery on bank notes or bills: Life in prison.
- Possessing 10 or more counterfeit bills or notes: Life in prison.
In addition to being put in prison, depending upon the forged or counterfeit item, serious fines can be imposed. The punishment for forging or counterfeiting anything can be tough. For US securities, forging or counterfeiting currency can net fines of up to $250,000. Prison sentences can go up to 20 years. In some extreme cases, prison time could be 25 years or more when a foreign security and/or obligations are forged or counterfeited. Also, if some type of financial gain or loss occurs because of the counterfeiting or forging action, the sentence can be stiffer. Fines can be double the amount that was gained by you or lost by the victim in the crime.
For you to be convicted of the crime of forgery, the state prosecutor must prove these elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
- That you falsified, altered or counterfeited one or more major parts of the document in question
- You committed the forgery with intent to injure or defraud another person.
The state prosecutor must show there was actual intent. It is not enough to prove that you did the forgery act in question; the state must prove that you had to intent to commit forgery to gain some type of benefit. Again, the burden is on the state to prove that you actually knew the document passed or altered was false.
For the alleged act to be a crime of forgery in Massachusetts, something that is related to a legal document itself, separate from its contents, needs to be found false. If someone made a false statement in a document, this is another crime under many circumstances, but not necessarily a crime of forgery. Forgery is related to the genuineness of the document rather than whether the contents of the document are true.
- There was no intent to defraud, such as if the accused was unaware that the forged or counterfeit document was false. This can occur with currency because many people do not realize that a piece of currency has been faked.
- In some cases, the defendant could argue that the item that was counterfeited or forged was of such low quality that it cannot meet the definition of something that is counterfeit.
How Forgery Can Be Committed
The first way forgery may be committed is to counterfeit or produce what appears to be a real legal document, but is in fact counterfeit. The second way is to falsely complete one or more important parts of a real document, such as forging a signature on a bill or check. The third way is to alter in a major way one or more parts of an actual document that has been made out. For instance, if you were to change the amount on a check, this is a form of forgery.
So What's Next?
If you have been charged forgery in Massachusetts, Attorney Nathan is the experienced Massachusetts criminal defense attorney you want in your corner to form the strongest defense to a forgery charge. The prosecuting attorney will zealously attempt to convict you on such charges, and you need a powerful legal advocate working at your side. For a criminal defense legal consultation, please contact him at (617) 472-5775.
- Forgery Laws in Massachusetts. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://malegislature.gov/Laws/GeneralLaws/PartIV/TitleI/Chapter267