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What Is the Penalty for Forgery?

A bank's research fee can be part of the penalty for forging someone's name on checks.
Altering a check to make it appear as though it was written for a large sum of money is considered check forgery.
The length of a person's sentence depends on the amount of harm that was caused by the crime.
Committing forgery by signing someone else's name on a check is a crime that can lead to jail time.
Arrest and imprisonment are possible penalties for forgery.
Check washing is a form of check forgery that occurs when all inked information is erased from a check.
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  • Written By: Felicia Dye
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 10 October 2014
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Forgery is generally classified as a felony. As such, there are a number of penalties that may be imposed upon those who are found guilty. Restitution is very likely to be ordered if financial loss resulted from the crime. Individuals who are guilty may also be ordered to pay fines. If the crime is severe or if the guilty party has a criminal record, incarceration is a possibility. In some instances, however, individuals may avoid imprisonment and instead be placed on probation and ordered to do community service as a penalty for forgery.

The consequences for forgery can vary greatly. This crime is one that can consist of a wide range of actions, from signing someone’s name on a check to changing information on a property deed. The number of acts and the amount of harm caused is one factor that affects the penalty for forgery. Another factor is the jurisdiction in which the matter is prosecuted.

Forgery commonly results in direct financial losses or harm that can be measured by monetary value. When this is the case, in most jurisdictions the guilty party will be required to pay restitution. This may include the financial losses and the costs to repair the problem. For example, if someone forges another party’s signature on a number of checks and the bank requires a fee to research account activity, the fee may be included in the restitution.

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In addition to that financial consequence, people are often given another financial penalty for forgery fines. These funds are not distributed to the victims, however. This means that if for some reason a judge does not order restitution, the guilty party may be required to pay large sums of money, but none of it will be used to help the victim.

Incarceration is another common penalty for crimes of forgery. Whether a person will be incarcerated in jail or prison, the length of his sentence usually depends on the amount of harm that was caused by his crime. Although the incidents are likely to be unrelated, sentencing is also commonly impacted by other crimes of which a person has been convicted.

Some people are given probation as an alternative penalty for forgery. This punishment normally involves a person being excused from incarceration as long as she adheres to certain conditions. If a person violates any of the conditions, there is a threat that her sentence may be imposed. Community service is another alternative penalty for forgery. When either of these consequences are imposed, it is likely to be in addition to other penalties.

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Discuss this Article

anon938868
Post 9

My dad died and the signature on the will is not his according to the records I have with his signature. I believe fraud has occurred. I have talked to a lawyer but he says there is nothing to do because the will has been notarized. What would be your take on this?

anon353499
Post 8

What is the situation where a signature is forged on an artwork by a lesser known artist than the original artist which results in a lesser valuation but gives kudos to the new signatory.

anon324313
Post 7

I know someone who forged his girlfriend's name to refinance of their mortgage. The girlfriend came forward and said that she did not sign and the man confessed to the crime. What will the punishment be?

anon308789
Post 5

I don't think that forgery is that big of a deal. My friend recently got in trouble for signing her mom and best friend's mom's name on contracts at the local gym. We have yet to find out what the punishment will be, but hopefully by tomorrow we will know. But why should she fear getting incarcerated?

I understand paying back the money owed to the gym (a whopping 125 dollars) But why have to pay thousands of dollars over that? That doesn't make sense! My friend didn't owe thousands to the gym. She only owed $125. How does that make any sense at all?

anon301957
Post 4

My sister forged my name on the lease on our rental property. What can happen if I pursue charges?

eidetic
Post 3

I think the crime of forgery is definitely changing in this digital age. I feel like a few years ago, I used to hear about people forging checks, but now I hear about stuff like credit card fraud and credit card fraud punishment all the time.

Instead of forging someone's name on a check, now people hack into computers and get people's credit card numbers. Then they buy stuff over the Internet using the stolen card number, since you don't need a physical card to shop online. The end is basically the same, but the crime is just committed in the digital world instead of in a physical store.

ceilingcat
Post 2

@indemnifyme - I see what you're saying, but I think it really depends on the actual case. Even though forgery doesn't physically hurt someone, it can definitely ruin lives.

Imagine if someone forged some checks in your name, and cleaned out your bank account? You would probably lose a lot of money and get behind on your bills while you were getting the problem taken care of. That would still harm you, even if not physically.

Although I do agree that someone facing forgery charges maybe shouldn't serve as much time as someone who was facing assault and battery charges.

indemnifyme
Post 1

I know forgery is a serious crime, but I really don't agree with it being punished by incarceration. I mean, forgery isn't as serious as something like an aggravated assault charge, since no one gets physically hurt.

I think it makes a lot more sense for the forger to have to give financial restitution to all the people that were hurt, and maybe do some community service. This seems like a much more productive way to deal with this crime. The victims get compensated, and the community benefits from the community service. No one really benefits when we incarcerate someone for a crime like this.

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