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Defenses to Forgery Charges

The lack of an essential element to constitute the offense of forgery is considered a defense in a prosecution alleging the commission of forgery.  The fact that the defendant had in good faith believed s/he had authority to make the instrument constitutes a good defense in a prosecution of forgery.  If a person whose name is forged is the victim of the crime, evidence that the purported victim has actually extended permission to the forger will be a legitimate defense to a criminal prosecution[i].  However, an assertion that the defendant had the authority to make or sign the document is not a defense where the defendant in fact did not have the authority, and other circumstances indicate that the defendant knew s/he did not have such authority.

Guilty knowledge is an essential element that constitutes the offense of forgery.  Intoxication may be shown as affecting the existence of intent, premeditation, or deliberation in the commission of crime.  Even though drunkenness is not an excuse for a crime, however, in that class of crimes and offenses which depend upon guilty knowledge or the coolness and deliberation with which they are perpetrated, to constitute their commission or fix their degree of guilt, drunkenness can be considered for the purpose of negating such guilty knowledge[ii].

If the defendant submits res judicata as a defense, the defendant shall show that the elements of the crime for which the defendant was previously acquitted and the elements of the crime for which the defendant is charged are the same.  The defendant cannot plead res judicata if the offenses charged are entirely different in a point of law, although the offenses are connected with the crime for which s/he was previously acquitted.

As to several acts of forgery, each act constitutes a separate crime, even though they are committed in the course of a continuous transaction, on the same date.  Also, in the case of a crime committed on the same piece of paper, each act comprises of a separate crime unless each act constitutes merely one of a series related to an indivisible instrument.  Forging the names of several persons to one instrument constitutes a single crime.  Likewise, uttering is also considered a single crime in spite of the number of instruments involved.

[i] Mississippi Gaming Comm’n v. Baker, 755 So. 2d 1129 (Miss. Ct. App. 1999).

[ii] State v. Toohey, 1978 Ohio App. LEXIS 9643 (Ohio Ct. App., Belmont County July 7, 1978) .

Inside Defenses to Forgery Charges