Facing accusations that you altered or forged a check for your own personal gain can be devastating. This is considered a very serious theft charge in Texas, which means a conviction can land you in prison for a lengthy period of time. Beyond imprisonment, you may be forced to pay considerable court costs, fines, and restitution. Even once you finished your punishment, your difficulties will not be over. A permanent criminal record can be a costly setback in your education and career.
If you have been accused or charged with forging a check in Texas, the best way to defend yourself is to work with a Houston check forgery attorney from The Law Offices of Ned Barnett. Having a highly qualified and experienced Houston theft attorney on your side increases the likelihood of having the charges dropped or reduced or hearing a favorable verdict at the end of your trial.
Call (713) 222-6767 for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your case.
Check Forgery in Texas
Under the Texas Penal Code Section 32.21, to forge means to alter, make, complete, execute or authenticate any writing so that it claims to be executed at another time or place, by another person who did not authorize the act, or to be a copy of an original that does not actually exist. It is illegal to forge any type of document, including a check, with the intent to harm or defraud another person.
Checks can be forged in multiple ways. One of the most common types of forged checks is a reality check that is signed by another person in the account holder’s name. For example, if you took a neighbor’s check, filled it out and signed your neighbor’s name, this is a forgery. Checks can also be forged through the creation of an entirely fake check. If you create a document that looks like a check and seems to have all of the necessary information, such as account and routing numbers, then use it to purchase items knowing it cannot be cashed, that is also a forgery. Additionally, if you alter a real check you received to give you a greater amount of money, this is also a crime.
Possible Penalties for Check Forgery
The level of the forgery offense and its potential punishments can depend on a number of the circumstances, including the type of document involved and the amount of money or services obtained through the fraud.
In many circumstances, forgery is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a $4,000 fine.
However, if you are charged with forging a check, credit card, will, deed, mortgage, or another financial document, then you will be charged with a state jail felony. Upon conviction, you face incarceration for 180 days up to two years and a fine up to $10,000.
Check Forgery Against an Elderly Individual
If you are accused of forging a check and committing fraud against an elderly individual, which includes any person 65 years or older, then you will be charged with the next higher offense. For example, a state jail felony will rise to a third-degree felony for check fraud. You will then face an imprisonment between two and 10 years and a fine up to $10,000.
Federal Charges for Forgery
Forgery is a crime in Texas, yet it can also be charged as a federal crime. If, with the intent to defraud, you are accused of forging an endorsement or signature on a U.S. Treasury check, creating a false Treasury check and trying to pass it off as real, or buying, selling, exchanging or hiding a false Treasury checks, then under 18 U.S. Code Section 510, you can be imprisoned for up to 10 years.
Additionally, your offense can be charged as a federal crime if a forged check was taken or mailed across state lines or if you are accused of committing forgery within multiple states.
Collateral Consequences of Conviction
If you are convicted of check forgery, you will have a permanent criminal record with a fraud-related crime on it. This can make it particularly difficult to move forward with your life once you complete your sentence. A fraud-related conviction can make it impossible to work in certain types of positions. You may not be hired for a position that works with cash or a business’s finances because a supervisor believes you cannot be trusted. This conviction can also make it difficult to obtain certain professional licenses. It may bar you completely from certain licenses while other licensing committees may find your character inappropriate for that profession.
Defending Against Check Forgery Charges
There are numerous ways to defend against check forgery accusations. You and your attorney can present evidence that you in no way participated in the forgery. You may argue that there was a forged check that harmed another person, however, you were not the person who created or passed the forged check.
Another defense is that you committed an innocent error. For example, you may work with an elderly individual who can no longer see or write well enough to fill out checks on their own and they asked you to do so for them. You may be able to provide evidence of this request, including that you did not benefit from this action and you did not have any intent to defraud this elderly individual.
A commonly used defense is that the prosecution lacks evidence of any illegal action or intention to defraud another person or business. It can be incredibly difficult for a prosecutor to show the court that you purposefully wanted to defraud someone. Your attorney may show that this element cannot be proven and therefore the prosecutor lacks a case against you.
Contact a Houston Check Forgery Attorney for Help Today
If you are facing criminal charges in Texas, you should not hesitate to seek the help and skills you need to prove your innocence or minimize the potential consequences of conviction. As a board certified criminal defense attorney by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, attorney Ned Barnett has the experience and training you need to face these accusations head on. Attorney Barrett has handled a myriad of fraud- and forgery-related cases and is ready to tackle your situation no matter its complexities.
To schedule a free consultation, call The Law Offices of Ned Barnett at (713) 222-6767.