Forgery and Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument

Under New York law, Forgery occurs when a person, with the intent to defraud, deceive, or injure another person, falsely makes, completes, or alters a written instrument. If you are accused of this crime, contact an experienced New York City forgery crime lawyer immediately.

A "written instrument" is legally defined as any instrument or article (including computer data or a computer program) containing a written or printed matter or its equivalent, that is used for the purpose of reciting, embodying, conveying, or recording information, or constituting a symbol or evidence of value, right, privilege or identification, which is capable of being used to the advantage or disadvantage of some person. A common example of a written instrument is a bank or personal check.

A common example of a situation in which a person is arrested for forgery occurs when a person walks into a bank and attempts to cash a forged check. Under New York law, the government needs to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the person actually committed the forgery to sustain a conviction. This is not an easy task unless there is a witness to when the forgery itself occurred. This rarely happens in the bank (usually person will have already committed the forgery before walking into the bank). To combat this legal difficulty, the New York legislature made it a crime to merely possess a forged instrument.

A person possesses a forged instrument when, with knowledge that the instrument is forged and with an intent to defraud, deceive, or injure another person, he utters or possesses a forged instrument. A "forged instrument" is legally defined as any written instrument which has been falsely made, completed, or altered. So even if the government can't necessarily prove that the person who tried to cash the forged check committed the forgery, it is considerably easier for them to prove that the person possessed a forged instrument. It is for this reason that forgery charges are usually brought as Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument, rather than simply as Forgery. The degree of charges are, however, the same. The degree of either forgery or possession of a forged instrument that a person can ultimately be convicted of depends on what the nature of a written instrument. For example, possessing a forged credit card falls under Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the Second Degree, which possession of a forged corporate stock falls under Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the First Degree.

Both Forgery and Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument are serious crimes. Below is a list of the degrees of the crimes, what the government needs to prove to sustain a conviction, and the applicable sanctions. If you, or a loved one, is accused of either Forgery or of Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument, do not hesitate to contact John Buza, an experienced New York criminal defense lawyer, for a free consultation.

  • Forgery in the First Degree
Forgery in the First Degree is codified in New York Penal Code Section 170.15. It is a class C felony. There is no minimum period of mandatory incarceration if a person with no prior felony convictions is convicted of a class C (non-violent and non-drug) felony, however, the maximum period of incarceration is an indeterminate sentence of 5 - 15 years years. An indeterminate sentence is one in which the person is sentenced to a range and the department of corrections determines how much of that range the person must serve before he is eligible for release. If the person has been previously convicted of a prior felony within 10 years of the new conviction, excluding time spent in prison, the minimum period of incarceration is 3 - 6 years and the maximum is 7 1/2 - 15 years. There is no period of mandatory parole after the person is released from custody.

For the government to sustain a conviction for Forgery in the First Degree, the government must prove the following two elements beyond a reasonable doubt. It must prove:
  1. the person falsely made, completed, or altered a written instrument which was, or purported to be, or which was calculated to become, or to represent if completed either: (i) part of an issue of money, stamps, securities or other valuable instruments issued by a government or governmental instrumentality; or (ii) part of an issue of stock, bonds or other instruments representing interests in or claims against a corporate or other organization or its property; and
  2. the person did so with the intent to defraud, deceive, or injure another.

  • Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the First Degree
Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the First Degree is codified in New York Penal Code Section 170.30. It is a class C felony. There is no minimum period of mandatory incarceration if a person with no prior felony convictions is convicted of a class C (non-violent and non-drug) felony, however, the maximum period of incarceration is an indeterminate sentence of 5 - 15 years years. An indeterminate sentence is one in which the person is sentenced to a range and the department of corrections determines how much of that range the person must serve before he is eligible for release. If the person has been previously convicted of a prior felony within 10 years of the new conviction, excluding time spent in prison, the minimum period of incarceration is 3 - 6 years and the maximum is 7 1/2 - 15 years. There is no period of mandatory parole after the person is released from custody.

For the government to sustain a conviction for Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the First Degree, the government must prove the following three elements beyond a reasonable doubt. It must prove:
  1. the person uttered or possessed a forged instrument which was, or purported to be, or which was calculated to become, or to represent if completed either: (i) part of an issue of money, stamps, securities or other valuable instruments issued by a government or governmental instrumentality; or (ii) part of an issue of stock, bonds or other instruments representing interests in or claims against a corporate or other organization or its property;
  2. the person did so with knowledge that it was forged; and
  3. the person did so with the intent to defraud, deceive, or injure another.

  • Forgery in the Second Degree
Forgery in the Second Degree is codified in New York Penal Code Section 170.10. It is a class D felony. There is no minimum period of mandatory incarceration if a person with no prior felony convictions is convicted of this felony, however, the maximum period of incarceration is an indeterminate sentence of 2 1/3 - 7 years. An indeterminate sentence is one in which the person is sentenced to a range and the department of corrections determines how much of that range the person must serve before he is eligible for release. If the person has been previously convicted of a prior felony within 10 years of the new conviction, excluding time spent in prison, the minimum period of incarceration is 2 - 4 years and the maximum is 3 1/2 - 7 years. There is no period of mandatory parole after the person is released from custody.

For the government to sustain a conviction for Forgery in the Second Degree, the government must prove the following two elements beyond a reasonable doubt. It must prove:
  1. the person falsely made, completed, or altered a written instrument which was, or purported to be, or which was calculated to become, or to represent if completed either: (i) a deed, will, codicil, contract, assignment, commercial instrument, credit card (as the term is defined in subdivision seven of section 155.00), or other instrument which does or may evidence, create, transfer, terminate or otherwise affect a legal right, interest, obligation or status; or (ii) a public record, or an instrument filed or required or authorized by law to be filed in or with a public office or public servant; or (iii) a written instrument officially issued or created by a public office, public servant or governmental instrumentality; or (iv) part of an issue of tokens, public transportation transfers, certificates, or other articles manufactured and designed for use as symbols of value usable in place of money for the purchase of property or services; or (v) a prescription of a duly licensed physician or other person authorized to issue the same for any drug or any instrument or device used in the taking or administering of drugs for which a prescription is require by law; and
  2. the person did so with the intent to defraud, deceive, or injure another.

  • Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the Second Degree
Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the Second Degree is codified in Penal Code Section 170.25. It is a class D felony. There is no minimum period of mandatory incarceration if a person with no prior felony convictions is convicted of this felony however, the maximum period of incarceration is an indeterminate sentence of 2 1/3 - 7 years years. An indeterminate sentence is one in which the person is sentenced to a range and the department of corrections determines how much of that range the person must serve before he is eligible for release. If the person has been previously convicted of a prior felony within 10 years of the new conviction, excluding time spent in prison, the minimum period of incarceration is 2 - 4 years and the maximum is 3 1/2 - 7 years. There is no period of mandatory parole after the person is released from custody.

For the government to sustain a conviction for Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the Second Degree, the government must prove the following three elements beyond a reasonable doubt. It must prove:
  1. the person uttered or possessed a forged instrument which was, or purported to be, or which was calculated to become, or to represent if completed either: (i) a deed, will, codicil, contract, assignment, commercial instrument, credit card (as the term is defined in subdivision seven of section 155.00), or other instrument which does or may evidence, create, transfer, terminate or otherwise affect a legal right, interest, obligation or status; or (ii) a public record, or an instrument filed or required or authorized by law to be filed in or with a public office or public servant; or (iii) a written instrument officially issued or created by a public office, public servant or governmental instrumentality; or (iv) part of an issue of tokens, public transportation transfers, certificates, or other articles manufactured and designed for use as symbols of value usable in place of money for the purchase of property or services; or (v) a prescription of a duly licensed physician or other person authorized to issue the same for any drug or any instrument or device used in the taking or administering of drugs for which a prescription is require by law; 
  2. the person did so with knowledge that it was forged; and
  3. the person did so with the intent to defraud, deceive, or injure another.

  • Forgery in the Third Degree
Forgery in the Third Degree is codified in New York Penal Code Section 170.05. It is a class A misdemeanor. A person convicted of a class A misdemeanor may be sentenced up to 1 year in jail. 

For the government to sustain a conviction for Forgery in the Third Degree, the government must prove the following two elements beyond a reasonable doubt. It must prove:
  1. the person falsely made, completed, or altered a written instrument; and
  2. the person did so with the intent to defraud, deceive, or injure another.

  • Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the Third Degree
Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the Third Degree is codified in Penal Code Section 170.20. It is a class A misdemeanors. A person convicted of a class A misdemeanor may be sentenced up to 1 year in jail. 

For the government to sustain a conviction for Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the Third Degree, the government must prove the following three elements beyond a reasonable doubt. It must prove:
  1. the person uttered or possessed a forged instrument; 
  2. the person did so with knowledge that it was forged; and
  3. the person did so with the intent to defraud, deceive, or injure another.
Accusations of either Forgery and Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in any degree are serious. If you, or a loved one, is accused of this crime, do not hesitate to contact John Buza, an experienced New York criminal defense lawyer, for a free consultation.