New York law asserts that when someone “falsely makes, completes, or alters a written instrument” with intent to defraud, deceive, or harm someone else, they are guilty of basic forgery, or forgery in the third degree, which is a misdemeanor. Forgery in the first and second degrees are felonies: they involve more serious crimes and carry heavier penalties.

New York forgery crimes are diverse, and so are the penalties. Misdemeanors can be punished by up to one year in jail, while felonies typically carry a four to seven-year sentence in state prison, plus fines.

Defendants should obtain skilled representation upon being charged with forgery. They should also contact a criminal defense attorney if they are interviewed as a “witness.”

On March 7, 2014, Fahdia Khan, 40, was charged in New York State Supreme Court with Identity Theft in the First Degree, Forgery in the Second and Third Degrees, Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the Second Degree, and Falsifying Business Records in the First Degree. According to the charges and court statements, she obtained employment by stealing the identity of a friend and using it on employment application forms, direct deposit forms, and tax documents.

Forgery in the first degree is a class C felony involving the forging of money, stamps, securities, and other government-issued instruments. Forgery in the second degree is a class D felony, and covers written instruments like wills, contracts, deeds, and checks. Forgery in the third degree is a class A misdemeanor. Examples include altering a birth date on a driver’s license or changing grades on a school transcript.

Forgery is related to other crimes including Identity Theft, Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument, Criminal Possession of Forgery Devices, Falsifying Business Records, Grand Larceny, and Money Laundering.

A conviction for basic forgery incurs a jail sentence of up to one year and /or a fine of up to $1,000. A class C felony conviction receives a mandatory prison sentence of up to 15 years plus a fine which is the greater of $5,000 or double the amount of the defendant’s gain from the forgery.

Lack of intent to defraud, deceive or injure, lack of knowledge that an instrument was forged, infancy (for people under sixteen) and mental disease / defect are acceptable defenses.

R.I.C.O considers certain forgery activities, such as counterfeiting, to be racketeering crimes. Those convicted can be imprisoned up to 20 years per count and fined up to $25,000, while New York courts impose up to 15 years per count and a typically lower fine. RICO also requires convicted racketeers to forfeit all their criminal gains while a New York court may impose a fine equal to double the amount realized from the forgery. R.I.C.O also permits a racketeering victim to file a civil lawsuit, while New York law does not.