NOTE: The information on this page applies only to charges in Massachusetts. If you are looking for information pertaining to any other jurisdiction, please consult a local attorney.
Elements of the Offense of Forgery or Uttering
Forgery is the making of a false document, or the alteration of a true document to make it false, with the intent to injure or defraud. Uttering is passing or publishing a forged document with the intent to injure or defraud. Any document can be forged or uttered, but the most common documents are checks, prescriptions, and property orders.
Proving a Forgery
In most forgery/uttering cases the real issue is the document trail.
The first problem for the Commonwealth is proving that the document is actually forged. Police investigating crimes are not always worried about how the evidence they collect will be used in court. In cases of forgery/uttering, the police will confirm that a document is forged by contacting the person who is responsible for the document. That person will tell them that that they never issued the document with the information on the one that the police recovered in the case.
That is all well as far as it goes, but saying that something is forged over the phone is a very different matter than proving it in court. To do that, the Commonwealth has to bring that person and all of their paperwork into court to testify. Often, these witnesses will have their own reasons for testifying that the document is forged, especially where the document is a prescription or authorization of some sort, such as the fact that they could be criminally liable themselves if the document was issued as it reads.
Proving that Possession was Knowing
The police will usually charge whoever happened to be in possession of the document at the time the crime is uncovered without considering how that person came to acquire it. The crime of uttering requires that the Commonwealth prove that whoever passed the document knew it was false, and the crime of forgery requires that the person charged with the crime be the one who actually did the forgery. Police will charge both where they have doubts as to either. But if the police have their doubts, don't you think the jury will too?
The charges of Forgery and Uttering carry surprisingly harsh potential penalties.
Nearly all the offenses charged in cases involving forgery/uttering are felonies, and some can additionally result in the suspension of your drivers license for significant periods of time. As a general rule, you should always vigorously fight felony charges. With so many people involved, and with such severe penalties, you should always contact an attorney when charged with forgery or uttering.
If you or someone you know has been charged with a forgery or uttering offense in Massachusetts, contact me today to set up a free and confidential consultation.
See: G.L. c. 267 s. 1; G.L. c. 267 s. 5; G.L. c. 265; G.L. c. 94C s. 33; License Suspensions.