Forgery crimes have been around for quite a long time. However, this crime has evolved due to the development of technology. A successful forgery prosecution in Arizona can subject you to a maximum of eight years and hefty fines. That is why you should seek the help of a professional criminal attorney to increase the chances of winning your case or reduce your potential penalties. You can get in touch with us at Phoenix Criminal Attorney if you are looking for an expert criminal defense attorney to help build a good defense strategy for you.
Legal Definition of Forgery in Arizona
Forgery crimes and related offenses are governed under Arizona Revised Statute (A.R.S) section 13-2001 to 13-2011. Forgery crime is governed explicitly by A.R.S section 13-2002. Under this statute, forgery is defined as an intention to defraud another person when a person does the following:
- Falsely makes, complete, or alter a written instrument
- Knowingly possessing a forged instrument and intends to use it to defraud another person
- Offers to present or present a fake written instrument, whether it is accepted or not
There are particular aspects or elements that a prosecutor needs to prove to prosecute a suspect for Arizona forgery crimes successfully. These aspects are defined as the elements of the crime. Here is a detailed view of the elements of the crime in Arizona forgery crimes.
You Had a Written Instrument
A written instrument in this context represents a document with an apparent legal significance. This includes documents such as:
- Government-issued documents such as passports and driver’s license
- Transaction documents such as receipts, conveyance, and deeds
- Financial instruments such as stock certificates, checks, and currencies
- Other documents such as patents, prescriptions, works of art, and medical prescriptions
For a document to have a legal significance, it should have the legal and rights obligations towards an entity or an individual. In that case, a letter of recommendation from a physician can be subjected to forgery. This is different from signing another person’s name to a letter since, in most cases, such documents do not have a legal significance.
Making, Using, Altering, or Possessing
The second element of the crime is the action that a suspect does onto the written instruments. When it comes to forgery, most people think about false writing, forging a certificate, or a letter. However, other actions, such as altering existing writing, can be considered as a forgery as long as it will affect the legal obligation intended for the document.
Other actions, such as deleting, adding, or changing a significant portion of the document to alter its legal obligation, is also an Arizona forgery. Finally, possessing false writing is also forgery since the intention behind it is intended to defraud another person.
When the action in question is false writing, it must have a legal significance and false to qualify as a forgery crime.
When it comes to the legal significance of the writing, it should have some legal implications on its owner or the recipient. Therefore, if someone tries to alter the information provided, this becomes a forgery crime.
When it comes to false writing, it must be fabricated or purported to represent something that it does not. Therefore, the simple insertion of a false statement into a statement is enough to meet this requirement if the misrepresentations do not change the meaning or intent of the writing. For instance, if you insert a false statement into a letter that you wrote, you may not have committed a forgery. However, it is a forgery to write a letter of legal significance and present it as a letter written by another person.
Intend to Defraud
To be guilty of forgery, you must have the intention to defraud another person or entity like a government agency. This element is necessary for protecting people possessing a false document without their knowledge from being subjected to criminal liability. For instance, if you purchase a vehicle only to realize that the seller had forged the car title, you will not be guilty of forgery since you had no intention to defraud.
You “knowingly” had the Intent to Defraud
Another close element to intent to defraud is acting with foreknowledge of the thing you are doing and the kind of implications that might result. Therefore, you must have acted willfully and was aware that the result of the actions you were undertaking might make you liable for committing a forgery offense.
Penalties for Forgery Crimes in Arizona
Forgery is punished along with counterfeiting in Arizona. If an offender is convicted with forgery, he or she is guilty of class 4 felony. This is punishable by a minimum sentence of one year and a maximum sentence of 3.75 years.
If the forgery is done with renting, purchasing, or leasing a dwelling that will be used in a drop house, the offense becomes a class 3 felony. The possible punishment is a minimum sentence of two years and a maximum sentence of 8.75 years.
A “drop house” is a legal term used to define a place used to facilitate smuggling.
Legal Defenses for Arizona Forgery Crimes
Once you hire an attorney, you should expect him or her to use relevant legal defenses to dismiss your case. There are several legal arguments that an attorney can rely on, but only a few are relevant to your lawsuit. Let’s have a closer look at the common legal defenses that your attorney can use.
Lack of Intent
If you had no intention to defraud, you might have a strong defense against your forgery crimes in a specific capacity. The prosecutor has the burden to prove that you had the specific intent to commit the alleged crime based on your actions. Therefore, if you unknowingly used the false documents or someone used them on your behalf, you should not be held liable for forgery crime.
In other cases, people are accused of committing a crime that they are not part of. Therefore, they are falsely accused of committing a crime when the accuser intends to settle a grudge. If you can manage to prove to the court that you were falsely accused, then the court will have no other choice but to dismiss your case. Proving false accusations is easy to show if you demonstrate that you were not in the crime scene when the alleged forgery crime was being committed. You can use your call history, credit card information, and receipts to confirm that you were not involved.
Illegally Obtained Evidence
Sometimes the investigating officials illegally obtain evidence related to any case to avoid losing to the suspect. If that is the case, you should prove to the court that the evidence presented against you is illegally obtained if you want it to be dismissed. If the investigating officials did not have a formal search warrant into your home or in person, this would be enough to consider the evidence collected as illegally obtained.
Consent from the Accuser
In some cases, people are accused of forgery, whereas they had a formal authorization from the accuser to continue with the action. However, in one way or another, you ended up being accused of forgery. If that is your case, you must demonstrate to the court that there was a formal agreement to sign into the written instrument in question from the accuser if you want the case to be dismissed. This is possible if there is a clause allowing a second party to sign into the documents instead of the accuser. You can also rely on this argument if there was a third party involved as a witness. This evidence would help you prove that you were not involved in any form of forgery.
Some investigating officials might be enthusiastic to the point of presenting insufficient evidence to the court. If you can prove to the court that the evidence presented against you is not enough to prosecute you, you will be in a good position of challenging the case and have it dismissed or reduced to a minor offense.
There are cases whereby people are involved in forgery crimes out of entrapment and end up being accused. Most entrapment occurs as a result of blackmail or threats. If you were involved in such a crime out of entrapment, you need to demonstrate that you were in a position that you would not reasonably participate in the crime due to the conditions that were set forth by the person or people involved.
For instance, there are chances of having your case dropped by the court if the person behind you had kidnapped your loved one unless you are involved in committing the crime. However, you must show concrete evidence that your loved one was kidnapped, hence your involvement in the crime.
Coerced confession applies when a defendant is charged with forgery after being forced into a confession by the police. It does not matter whether the officer used overbearing measures or not to qualify this legal defense. All you need to prove is that there was some form of coercing that would have forced you to engage in the forgery crime against your will.
Use of Your Information
Since forgery involves different documents, you might consider using your information to sign or approve a document as your legal defense. In this case, the information provided in the document must be correct and associated with you to make the legal argument valid enough. However, you need to confirm to the court that you had no conscious intention to defraud, or you were not aware that providing your information would make the document valid for defrauding.
Tips for Choosing a Good Attorney for your Case
Choosing a good lawyer is the best step towards winning your case. However, a good lawyer is selected through thorough research to make an informed decision. Once you have secured several lawyers referrals with expertise in the appropriate practice area, here is a detailed process that would help you choose a lawyer that will meet your legal needs.
Conduct a Candidate Interview
One of the best ways to assess the ability of your potential lawyer is by interviewing them. Most attorneys will provide an initial hour or less for consultation which you should utilize to your fullest. Some of the issues to consider are as follows:
- The level of experience
- Track record of success
- Percentage of caseloads dedicated to the type of problem you are handling
- Their billing process
Conduct a Background Check
Before you hire an attorney contact the lawyer disciplinary agency in Arizona to confirm whether they have a good standing as a member of the bar. You should also check references, especially through review ratings provided on the internet. Getting peer review for your attorney provides an opportunity to objectively determine whether your attorney has met the best standards needed in timely and effective service delivery.
Tour the Attorney’s Office
There are many things that you can learn once you visit your attorney’s office. It provides an insight into how they handle their tasks and the attitude that the attorney has regarding your case. You should also take note of the kind of support staff that the lawyer has employed and if they appear to be friendly and helpful. Finally, use this opportunity to watch out for red flags that would greatly affect the outcome of your case.
Crimes Related to Forgery in Arizona
As stated earlier, forgery laws in Arizona cover a wide area of Arizona Revised Statutes (A.R.S). All the laws in these sections are related to A.R.S 13-2002 in one way or another. Here are the crimes related to forgery in Arizona.
A.R.S 13-2003: Making or Possessing Forgery Tools
Making or possessing forgery tools is the closest crime to Arizona forgery. A person commits this crime by possessing any equipment or goods designed to be adapted or used in forgery and has the intention to defraud another party. The equipment involved in this crime includes computer software.
For instance, if you possess a government seal and use it to make a fake birth certificate, which appears to be real, you will be convicted of possessing a forgery tool.
Possession of a forgery tool is classified as a class 5 or class 6 felony. If you are convicted with a class 5 felony, you will face a minimum sentence of two years and a maximum of two and six months. If you are charged with a Class 6 felony, you will face a minimum of one year and a maximum of two years in prison. You might also be ordered to pay a fine worth up to $150,00.
A.R.S 13-2005: Obtaining a Signature by Deception
Obtaining a signature by deception is the highest level of a misdemeanor that a person can commit in Arizona. If you intended to defraud or misrepresent any information to obtain the signature, you would face a Class 1 misdemeanor.
Obtaining a signature by deception has a potential sentence of six months in jail, a fine of $2,500, and any applicable restitution.
A.R.S 13-2006: Criminal Impersonation
Criminal impersonation and aggravating cases apply where an undocumented worker use false social security number or card to be employed.
The kind of sentence that applies in this crime depends on the circumstances surrounding the offense. Therefore, it can be charged as a Class 6 felony with a potential penalty of one to one and a half years in prison. You can also be charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor, which has a maximum jail sentence of six months.
A.R.S 13-2008: Identity Theft
Arizona has the highest number of cases related to identity theft. Identity theft is defined as the deliberate use of another person’s identity to gain a financial advantage or obtain credit that is meant for the person that you have stolen his or her identity.
In Arizona, identity theft is a Class 4 felony and has a potential sentence of two and a half years in prison. However, you might incur additional charges depending on the severity of the theft. The prosecutor might also increase or decrease the penalty if the defendant was cooperative or pleads guilty to the crime.
Find a White Collar Crimes Attorney Near Me
You cannot get the desired results if you decide to handle a case all by yourself. Many legal requirements come with your forgery allegations, and it is not easy to keep track of them. Therefore, hiring a professional attorney would be the best decision once you are accused of forgery crimes. At Phoenix Criminal Attorney, we are specialized in criminal defense law and have many years of experience in handling cases related to forgery and other white-collar crimes. We have dealt with these types of cases for years, making us one of the best attorneys that you can choose in Phoenix. Contact us today by calling 602-551-8092, and get a free no-obligation consultation regarding your case.