The Third Tier of Forgery
What is forgery in the third degree?
In essence, forgery is when a person creates a written document under false pretenses. There are two components to forgery in the third degree: the intent to defraud or injure someone and the creation of the written “instrument.” New York State law defines a “written instrument” very broadly, including not just a straightforward written document, but also things like computer programs and various symbols of value. Forgery is a common example of a class of illegal activities know informally as “white collar crime.”
When the Charge of Forgery in the Third Degree Applies
New York State prosecutors have applied third-degree forgery charges very broadly in recent years. One of the most famous cases was the son of a prominent scholar who created email accounts posing as his father’s professional rivals. He was charged with and convicted of third-degree forgery for sending emails posing as these scholars. In this case, the emails were the “written instrument” that the person “falsely created.” Moreover, on appeal, the courts ruled that there is no minimum financial threshold for the “injury” component of the forgery law. In this case, the son’s aim to injure the reputations of the scholars was sufficient to support the intent portion of the charge.
Most cases of third-degree forgery are more straightforward, such as signing medical documents known to be fraudulent, or knowing completing financial forms with incorrect information in order to receive payment that one is not entitled to. But it is important to remember that the meaning of this law is not always clear and you need an experienced criminal attorney to understand how to defend you against a forgery charge.
NY PENAL § 170.05: The Charge of Forgery in the Third Degree
The New York State penal code says:
A person is guilty of forgery in the third degree when, with intent to defraud, deceive or injure another, he falsely makes, completes or alters a written instrument.
Forgery in the third degree is a class A misdemeanor.
What Can Happen To Me If I Am Charged With Forgery in the Third Degree?
Although forgery in the third degree is a misdemeanor, the penalty can still be substantial. If convicted, you can be sentenced to up to 1 year in jail. Even if you avoid a jail term, you can still receive a year of probation and a fine of up to $1,000 for each count you are convicted of. In addition, a third-degree forgery conviction will result in a criminal history that can affect your ability to get a job or find housing. It is important that you are represented by a criminal defense attorney who understand how to minimize the damage a conviction can have on your life.
What Should I Do Next?
If you are charged with forgery in the third degree in Queens, Suffolk, or Nassau county, remember that you have rights! You should hire a skilled criminal defense lawyer who understands how local prosecutors pursue forgery charges and how to best represent you in court. Your lawyer understands the law and can vigorously defend you against these charges, making sure a misdemeanor forgery charge doesn’t ruin your life. Let him speak on your behalf to the police and the prosecutor.