White Collar Crime and Criminal Law on Forgery in Arizona

forgery in arizonaArizona law outlines forgery as a serious crime in Arizona Revised Code Statute §13-2002. The law classifies forgery as a class 4 felony, which carries serious consequences with it. Forgery is set forth as defrauding another person through altering a written instrument, possessing a forged instrument knowingly, or presenting a false instrument or one that contains false information.

It might not be the flashiest crime or one you read about in the newspapers until something serious comes from it, but forgery is still a serious crime and one you’ll certainly need an Arizona criminal law attorney to plead your case.

What is a written instrument?

The law outlines that forgery includes the alteration of a written instrument, so what does that mean? A written instrument can be a trademark or logo, signature or other identifiable mark. Forging any sort of symbol that isn’t yours to use or represent constitutes forgery.

Forgery dates back many hundreds of years to goods, such as paintings, made to look like an infamous work of art. People would pass them off as the real thing hoping to make tons of money off the artwork, knowing that it was not from the original artist.

A person is not only liable for forgery when they are the one creating the falsified document, such as a work of art, but also if they are the person knowingly selling or marketing it as something they know it isn’t. For example, an artist who paints the fake painting can face forgery charges, but so can the salesman who knows the painting is not real and sells it as an original as if it were the real thing.

Outlining Arizona’s forgery laws

To be charged with forgery, the courts must prove that you had both knowledge of the forged information and intent to defraud the person you sold it to. This must be proven without a reasonable doubt for you to be charged with the offense. However, once a person is caught with five or more forged instruments, the court can assume that the person had intent to defraud.

A first-time offense is treated as a class 4 felony for which you can serve up to four and a half years in jail for if you’re found guilty. However, even if it is your first offense and you use the forged documents to purchase, lease or rent a dwelling used as a “drop house,” you’ll face class 3 felony charges. Arizona law clarifies that a drop house “means property that is used to facilitate smuggling pursuant to section 13-2319.”

Defenses for forgery

You should contact an attorney if you’re facing forgery charges. However, as you evaluate your case and work with your attorney, here’s a look at some of the defenses your attorney might recommend in your forgery case.

Lack of intent – the law clearly outlines that there must be intent to defraud with the forged instruments. That means that if you did not mean deception with your actions, you might be in the clear. For example, many famous paintings are turned into photographs that you can purchase at a furnishing store. No one is pretending that it’s the real thing so there is no intent to defraud in the sale of the lookalike painting.

Lack of knowledge – you could be the victim of fraud at the hands of others who claim something is real and you honestly pass it off as such, trusting the information you’ve been given. This can be a strong defense when you unknowingly defraud another person.

Coercion – sadly, people can be forced to forge a document or face bodily injury to themselves or their loved ones. Proving that you were coerced into the forgery can help you be released from the charges or face no charges at all.

No matter how strong you believe your case is, be sure to discuss it with an Arizona criminal defense attorney who can help you work through the details and present the material in the best way possible.

Click here for information on what is the penalty for forgery in Arizona.