What is the Penalty for Forgery in Arizona?
Creating falsified written documents or modifying existing ones is a crime known as forgery. New technologies have made the process a lot simpler and forgery has become more difficult to spot. Still, this is a crime punishable by law in both Arizona and across the US.
What Exactly Is Forgery?
A person commit forgery in Arizona by falsely making, altering or completing a written instrument for the purpose of defrauding someone. The possession of a fake written instrument whenever a person knows that the document is fake and the presentation of a fake written document are also considered forgery.
In this context, written instrument refers to a paper or a document that features written text, a graphic image, token, stamp, access device or a symbol of identification.
More information about what a written instrument is and how Arizona law defines forgery can be found in A.R.S. 13-2001 and A.R.S. 13-2002.
Keep in mind that in Arizona, it is also a crime to possess the tools required to commit forgery. Computer hardware and software used to modify or falsify documents will be included among these tools and they can be used as evidence of the intent to commit forgery.
The possession of a government seal for the creation of falsified birth certificates, for example, will qualify as the possession of a tool required to commit forgery. Even if the person hasn’t falsified a birth certificate yet or there’s no evidence of such a crime, the mere possession of the seal will be sufficient to lead to forgery charges.
The Penalties for Forgery in Arizona
Forgery is a Class 4 felony in Arizona.
Class 4 convictions result in a range of penalties like a minimum prison sentence of one year (and a maximum of 3.75 years), probation and fines. A person that has been found guilty of forgery in the past will face a longer sentence. One previous offense will lead to a prison sentence in the range from 2.25 to 7.5 years. People who have two previous convictions will face up to 15 years of incarceration.
The creation or possession of forgery tools will be either a Class 6 or a Class 5 felony.
The making or possession of forgery tools with the intent to commit fraud is a Class 6 felony. The crime is punishable by a prison sentence ranging from one to two years.
Making or possessing forgery tools with the intent to commit forgery is a Class 5 felony. A Class 5 felony is punishable by a prison sentence in the range from two to 2.5 years.
Depending on the scope of the crime, the Arizona court may impose a fine of up to 150,000 dollars on top of the incarceration.
Forgery Legal Defenses
Forgery is a serious crime that can have life-altering consequences. Talk to a lawyer as soon as you’re charged with the crime. Even if you don’t believe the situation is serious, you may still end up with a criminal record and a range of punishments.
Arizona criminal defense attorneys will craft a strategy based on the specifics of the situation and the nature of evidence collected against you.
A common defense scenario is that the defendant received the consent of a document owner to carry out a modification on their behalf. Forgery should be intentional and for the purpose of defrauding someone. When these elements are missing, the fraud charges become indefensible.
The lack of knowledge on behalf of the defendant that a document was forged could also hold up in court.
Peace officers and prosecutors that possess forgery tools or commit forgery in line with their duties will also have a very strong defense scenario to lean on. Finally, lawyers can go after procedural errors and the violation of their client’s rights.