Forgery is the act of criminally making or altering a written instrument for the purpose of fraud or deceit. In the U.S., depending on the type of documents forged, forgeries are primarily classified in three degrees: first degree, second degree, and third degree. The first two degrees are felonies and the third degree amounts to a misdemeanor. The first degree forgery involves the actual presentation or use of any falsely made, altered or possessed document with the intent to deceive or defraud. The second degree forgery does not require use or presentation of the documents. No act is a crime if it has not been previously established as such either by statute or common law. Every state in the U.S.has established laws regarding forgery offenses. The punishment for forgery varies from place to place.
In most states, a person convicted of misdemeanor must face a jail sentence of at least one year. However, a conviction for felony must face an imprisonment more than one year. In addition to jail sentence, a convict can be required to pay a fine or make restitution to victim.
Common law forgery means that there is no statute or law in the state that deals with forgery. A person convicted of forgery can face heavy penalties including imprisonment in prison, heavy fines, probation, community service, and the loss of some civil privileges.
The crime of uttering a forged instrument consists of offering a forged document as true and genuine, knowing it to be a forgery. Uttering a forged document must be done with the intention to defraud. A person who did not actually commit the forgery can be guilty of uttering. The crimes of forgery and uttering a forged instrument are separate and distinct crimes. Even when committed with regard to the same instrument, crimes of forgery and uttering lead to separate convictions and separate sentences[i]. However, a single aggravating circumstance is sufficient to enhance a sentence[ii].
[i] Norwood v. Mayo, 74 So. 2d 370, 371 (Fla. 1954).
[ii] Farris v. State, 787 N.E.2d 979, 983 (Ind. Ct. App. 2003).