Contrary to popular belief, forgery involves both making and using fake goods and presenting them as genuine in order to defraud a person, organization or a government body. It is a white-collar crime.
One of the most commonly known forgeries is check fraud, which often involves writing a bad check or forging a signature or creating a fake check, among other things. Forgery is a felony-level crime that may result in serious legal consequences in Minnesota.
In most cases, any of the following can be regarded as an act of forgery:
- Creating a false or fake document. For example, creating a false identification or documents like legal certificates and contracts.
- Falsifying an original document. For example, forging a signature on a real check or changing the name or amount.
- Presenting a false or fraudulent document or item knowingly. Please note, you will be charged with forgery even if the said document or artifact is not accepted.
- Possession of any fake document or item knowingly. In this case, you will be charged for possession.
- Destroying or mutilating a document with the intention of defrauding a person or an entity.
In Minnesota, you can also receive forgery charges for owning or manufacturing equipment used to make forgeries. The good news? Hiring an experienced forgery defense attorney in Hutchison, Minnesota can help you get your charges dropped. Keep reading to find out how.
Types of Forgery Charges in Hutchinson, MN
Minnesota has three statutes covering the types of forgery: forgery, aggravated forgery, and check fraud. Counterfeiting is another type of forgery offense specifically designed to punish currency forgers.
Forgery in Hutchinson, MN
The manufacturing, possession, or use of fraudulent items or documents is a crime in Minnesota. Note that the law considers fraudulent physical documents and forged electronic documents equally.
Forgery falls under Section 609.63 of Minnesota statutes. Forgery is almost always charged as a felony offense.
Before a court can prove forgery, though, it must have evidence of intent. The court must be able to prove that you knowingly created, possessed, or used a fraudulent item. Without intent, a Hutchison forgery defense lawyer can get your charges dropped.
Aggravated Forgery in Hutchinson, MN
Aggravated forgery is a more serious crime than simple forgery. It’s also a felony to commit an aggravated forgery offense, as specified in Section 609.625 of Minnesota’s Statutes.
The difference between aggravated forgery and forgery is that the former incurs heftier penalties, including prison time and fines. Why is aggravated forgery a more serious offense? In aggravated forgery cases, the forger attempts to defraud an authority figure. For example, forging an official seal, public records, or court orders would make the crime an aggravated forgery offense.
Check Fraud in Hutchinson, MN
Check fraud is the most common type of forgery in Minnesota. Under Section 609.631 of Minnesota’s Statutes, it’s a crime to manufacture fraudulent checks. It’s also a crime to possess and/or use fraudulent checks.
As with common and aggravated forgery, a court must prove that the person in possession of the fraudulent check knows it’s forged and intends to use it as such. Check fraud convictions are almost always felonies.
It’s important to note that check fraud includes check washing and check forgery. Check washing occurs when someone removes the accurate information on a check and replaces it with fraudulent data. Check forgery, on the other hand, is when someone fraudulently endorses a check with someone else’s name without that person’s permission.
Issuing bad checks is a similar offense. However, Minnesota Statutes don’t categorize this type of check fraud under forgery. See Section 609.535 for more information about writing bad checks.
Counterfeiting in Hutchinson, MN
In Minnesota, it’s illegal to manufacture, sell, possess, or use counterfeit currencies. Counterfeiting charges are distinct from other forgery offenses because they involve forged currencies, not other fraudulent items.
Currencies aren’t just US dollars. Minnesota also defines money orders, Federal Reserve Notes, and other US securities as currency. Further, it’s a crime to manufacture or possess equipment used to make forgeries.
Counterfeiting is a felony. But like forgery, a court must first prove intent. If you’re in possession of or use counterfeit money and you don’t know it’s fraudulent, a forgery defense lawyer in Hutchison can help you avoid conviction.
Penalties for Forgery in Hutchinson, MN
All forgery crimes are felony-level crimes in Minnesota, and hence, carry hefty penalties such as fines and prison time. Usually the value of your forgery will determine the sentence you receive. Depending on the nature of your crime, you may also face charges from state and federal prosecution.
Aggravated Forgery in Hutchinson, MN
When charged with aggravated forgery, you may end up facing imprisonment for up to 10 years and/or a fine of up to $20,000, if found guilty. On the other hand, the charges of forgery can result in imprisonment for up to three years and/or a fine of up to $5,000 if found guilty. If the forger presents the fraudulent item as evidence in court proceedings for a felony charge, the penalties increase to a $10,000 fine and up to five years in prison.
Examples of Fines and Sentences for Forgery in Hutchinson and the State of Minnesota
Punishments for check fraud depend on the amount. If the check was worth less than $250, the fine is $3,000 and sentencing is up to one year in prison. Fake checks worth $250–$2500 can earn forgers up to five years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine.
More than $2,500 worth of fraudulent checks come with up to 10 years in prison and $20,000 in fines. Cases dealing with more than $35,000 worth of fake checks earn the highest penalties — up to 20 years in prison, $100,000 in fines, or both.
Also, if a forger has a prior related conviction within the last five years and possesses $250 or less in fake checks, he or she must spend up to five years in prison and/or pay a $10,000 fine.
Manufacturing or owning equipment used to manufacture counterfeit currencies can get you 20 years in prison and up to a $100,000 fine. Possession or use of counterfeit money is also a serious crime in Minnesota. It can earn you up to 20 years in prison and $100,000 in fines.
More Severe Punishments for Forgery in Hutchinson, MN
However, based on the individual circumstances of your case, you may have to suffer more severe punishment. An experienced forgery defense lawyer will be able to discuss the potential penalties and how you can reduce them only after checking the facts related to your case.
Furthermore, a conviction for forgery can haunt you for the rest of your life. Getting a job is next to impossible for a convicted felon. No business will want to hire an individual who had committed forgery.
Universities also vet student applications to see if you were ever convicted of a crime. If yes, the doors to a decent education might be closed for you forever. Students with a criminal record are also not likely to receive any scholarships or concessions. That’s why you have to try and get your forgery charges reduced or even dismissed with the help of a good felony forgery attorney.
Can Forgery Charges Be Dropped in Minnesota?
With the help of a skilled forgery defense lawyer, it is possible to reduce your forgery charges or even get them dropped. However, nothing is certain as a lot of factors are involved in a forgery trial.
An experienced forgery defense attorney can get forgers off in small-scale cases. If the forged items are worth less than $1000, the forger could get a pretrial diversion. Pretrial diversions are court orders allowing offenders to pay fines and complete self-improvement activities (e.g., community service) in exchange for dropping the charges.
There are also defense options for larger-scale forgers. With deferred adjudication, the alleged forger pleads guilty before trial. Upon completion of a probationary program, the judge will drop the case.
Pre-Trial for Forgery in Hutchinson, MN
If charges aren’t dropped through one of these two resolutions, the case will proceed to pre-trial. However, the burden of proof rests on the state. In other words, the state has to prove beyond any doubt that you either created or used the fraudulent documents with the intention to defraud a person or organization in question. If you are being tried for possession, they need to prove that you possessed the fake documents, money or goods knowing fully well that they are fake.
So, the first order of business is to talk to a criminal defense lawyer specializing in forgery crime. After hearing your case, the lawyer will help you proceed with the pre-trial steps.
The evidence presented against you will include the documents in question, police and lab reports, expert witness testimony, and anything else related to your case. As you and your lawyer can see the evidence against you during this stage, you will be able to define the next course of action.
Based on the circumstances of your case, the lawyer can suggest you to consider settlement offers. These may help reduce your charges or might dismiss them altogether.
What If My Forgery Case Is Not Settled?
If your case is not settled at pre-trial stage, it will move to a bench trial or a jury trial. The difference between the two is that judges will determine the outcome of your case in the former, while juries will do so in the latter.
Even if the case goes to trial, it is still possible to reduce the potential sentence. The burden of proof lies on the state. So, the state has to prove that you purposefully tried to defraud someone.
“Purposefully” is essential here. The prosecutor has to prove that you had the intent to defraud. This is to protect individuals who unknowingly possess or use forged items and currencies.
If proven guilty, depending on the value of forgery and your previous criminal background, among other things, you will receive a sentence. If the ruling goes against you despite your appeals, you will have to serve the sentence.
However, not all is lost, even now. After serving the sentence, you can still apply to expunge your forgery crime records. Expungement of court records can help you rebuild your life relatively quickly and easily.
Whether or not to expunge your criminal records, will primarily depend on the following factors:
- The nature of your offense (minor offenses are more likely to get expunged)
- Evidence of hardship you are suffering due to the forgery crime record
- Your additional efforts to rehabilitate or put your life back together
- The extent of risk you pose to the public
Expungement can be a viable solution in some cases, not all. However, you do need to talk to your forgery defense attorney first. Make sure to share all the facts and details related to your case freely with your lawyer to help them build an excellent defense for you. Remember, even a seemingly trivial detail can help turn the tide in your favor.
Each Forgery Case in Hutchinson and Minnesota Is Unique
You must understand that each forgery case is unique. Usually, very few cases are open-and-shut type, where you can get the forgery charges dropped completely. While any good forgery defense lawyer will leave no stone unturned to win every case, a lot of factors are involved in deciding the outcome.
Even if your forgery charges cannot be dismissed, you can try to get a reduced sentence. After serving a reduced sentence, you can further try to get your records expunged to begin your normal life as soon as possible.
Contact Our Seasoned Forgery Defense Lawyer in Hutchinson for the Best Representation
It is better to consult with us so we can make a preliminary observation of your case to determine the best course of action, considering your personal situation. Get in touch with our forgery defense lawyers at 855-762-6548 or contact us online for a free consultation.
This article was originally published on July 18, 2020 and updated on August 12, 2021.