Charged with Forgery in Texas?
Have you, a friend or a loved one been arrested and charged with forgery in Fort Worth or a surrounding city in Tarrant County or Dallas County, Texas? If so, you need to hire an experienced and aggressive forgery lawyer that has a proven track record of successfully defending forgery cases in North Texas. After hiring a criminal defense attorney, you must then focus on understanding Texas forgery laws and how to prepare a successful defense.
Under Texas Penal Code, Section 32.21, a person commits the crime of forgery if he passes a writing that is purported to be the act of another person, that person did not authorize the act, and the act was done with the intent to defraud or harm another.
The types of “writing” that are included with the crime of forgery involve the following: checks, money, coins, tokens, stamps, seals, credit cards, badges, trademarks, and any other symbols of value.
Depending upon the circumstances of your case, the crime of Forgery may be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony.
Texas Penal Code, Section 32.21(d) provides that the crime of Forgery will be classified as a State Jail Felony, punishable by up to 2 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines, if the writing that was forged purported to be any of the following: a will, codicil, deed, deed of trust, mortgage, security instrument, security agreement, credit card, check, authorization to debit an account at a financial institution.
Additionally, Texas Penal Code, Section 32.21(e) provides that the crime of Forgery will be classified as a third degree felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines, if the writing that was forged purported to be any of the following: part of an issue of money, securities, postage or revenue stamps, a government record or other instruments issued by a state or national government.
Additionally, if the forgery offense is committed against an elderly individual as defined by Texas Penal Code Section 22.04 (65 years of age or over), the range of punishment will be a degree higher. For example, if a forgery charge would normally be a state jail felony, if the alleged victim meets the definition of elderly, the charge would now be a third-degree felony, with a more severe range of punishment.
What If The Forgery Proceeds Were Used To Obtain Property Or Services?
Under Texas Penal Code, Section 32.21(e-1), if it is proven beyond a reasonable doubt by the prosecutor during a criminal jury trial that the forgery was conducted to obtain or attempt to obtain property or services, the offense will be punished under the following schedule:
- Class C Misdemeanor punishable by up to a $500 fine IF the value of the property or service is LESS than $100.
- Class B Misdemeanor punishable by up to 180 days in jail and up to a $2,000 fine IF the value of the property or service is more than $100 but less than $750.
- Class A Misdemeanor punishable by up to 1 year in the county jail and up to a $4,000 fine IF the value of the property or service is more than $750 but less than $2,500.
- State Jail Felony punishable by a prison sentence of six months to two years and up to a $10,000 fine IF the value of the property is more than $2,500 but less than $30,000.
- Third Degree Felony punishable by a prison sentence of two years to ten years and up to a $10,000 fine IF the value of the property is more than $30,000 but less than $150,000.
- Second Degree Felony punishable by a prison sentence of two years to twenty years and up to a $10,000 fine IF the value of the property is more than $150,000 but less than $300,000.
- First Degree Felony punishable by a prison sentence of five years up to life in prison and up to a $10,000 fine IF the value of the property is more than $300,000.
As you can see, most instances of Forgery are classified as Felony crimes that carry with them serious long-term consequences. In addition to the possible jail and/or prison time and large fines and fees, many other consequences exist. Because forgery is classified as a crime of dishonesty, receiving a felony or misdemeanor conviction for forgery can make it difficult to find employment and could result in the loss of your current job. Additionally, anyone who runs your background check will see the arrest and charge and feel they cannot trust you.
Legal Defenses To Forgery In Texas
If you have been arrested and charged with forgery, you must make certain that your criminal defense lawyer obtains access to the evidence and provides you an opportunity to review the evidence provide input. In order to mount an effective criminal defense, your criminal attorney needs your involvement and feedback. Let us examine a few of the defenses that may apply in a forgery case in Texas
Were you the individual that forged the check or was it someone else? There have been instances where a check or document was signed, and the clerk or witness was not positive as to the identity of the person. The identify of the person who forged the check with the intent to defraud another must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Failure to do so by the State of Texas will result in a not guilty verdict at a jury trial.
Lack of Criminal Intent
The State of Texas is required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the making, altering or use of a falsified document was performed with the intent to defraud or harm another.
What does it mean to harm or defraud another? It means that the document was being falsified/forged with the intent to financially harm the alleged victim. When someone forges someone’s personal check to be written to themselves, they are doing it in order to convert funds from the victim’s bank to their possession. In that situation, there is a persuasive argument that the forgery was being done with criminal intent.
However, what if the check was presented for the purpose of it being paid to someone else for which the accused did not benefit? There is a stronger argument that the accused did not benefit from the transaction and would have lacked the motive or intent to commit the crime.
The Signature Was Authentic
What if the crime of forgery did not occur as a matter of factual circumstances? In other words, what if the signature on the document or government record was not forged? If a document used in the financial transaction does not contain a false signature or there is a reasonable doubt regarding whether it was altered, you may be able to get your forgery case dismissed.
For example: we represented a client where a check had been written and the alleged victim could not remember if he had signed the check because he signs so many checks. Additionally, an analysis of the handwriting on the document was consistent with a version of the hand writer’s signature because his signature was sporadic in its pattern. As a result, there was as much evidence that the signature was authentic as there was a forgery.
Burden of Proof Was Not Met By The State of Texas
Under the United States and Texas Constitution, every person accused of a crime has no burden to prove their innocence. In fact, the government is ALWAYS required to prove the elements of the crime of forgery beyond a reasonable doubt.
As a tactical and strategic matter, the best forgery lawyers know that in order to get the best result on a forgery case, you may be required to push the negotiations process all the way to a jury trial setting. Why? Because prosecutors do not seriously begin to look at their cases to determine if they can prove the crime beyond a reasonable doubt until the case is on the trial docket. Once on the trial docket, the prosecutor is required to interview witnesses and alleged victims to determine how they can meet their burden of proof at trial. If your criminal attorney does not push the negotiations process to the trial docket, you may miss opportunities to resolve your case for a more favorable result.
If you have been arrested and charged with the crime of Forgery in Tarrant County, Fort Worth, Arlington, Hurst, Euless, Bedford, Mansfield, or surrounding areas, you need an aggressive and experienced criminal lawyer on your side.
Every person who calls The Hampton Law Firm after being arrested for forgery has the same goals in mind:
- Avoid Prison Time – no one wants to go to prison. If you are a first-time offender, prison time is not an option you should consider. Your criminal defense attorney must work tirelessly to examine every option to save you from a prison sentence. At The Hampton Law Firm, helping you avoid prison or jail time is our number one priority.
- Avoid A Felony Conviction – because most forgery charges in Texas are classified as a felony crime, it is critical that your criminal attorney have a proven track record of resolving forgery cases successfully avoiding a conviction. As we have already discussed above, receiving a felony conviction has permanent consequences that will forever change your future. Unfortunately, no felony conviction is ever able to be removed from your arrest record so the effort to avoid a conviction must take place before your case is resolved. Make certain that your criminal defense lawyer makes it a top priority to help you avoid a felony conviction.
- Avoid A Stain On Their Criminal Record – even if you are able to avoid prison time and a felony conviction, if your criminal lawyer is not sufficiently knowledgeable regarding the Texas rules of expunctions and non-disclosures, you could still face a limited future because of the forgery arrest on your criminal record. At The Hampton Law Firm, we routinely file multiple expunctions and non-disclosures each week to help our clients remove arrests and charges from their criminal record. Do not assume that simply because your forgery charge was dismissed that you do not need to worry about clearing your criminal record. You MUST file a petition with the court and have a hearing in order to clear your criminal record.
Whether you have been charged with a misdemeanor or felony Forgery, a conviction for the crime of Forgery could carry with it the prospect of jail time, hefty fines, and other serious long-term consequences. Do not settle for an inexperienced criminal attorney to oversee your forgery case.
At The Hampton Law Firm, you will collaborate with a team of Former Prosecutors with over 85 years of criminal law experience and over 550 criminal jury trials in the courts of Tarrant County and Dallas County, Texas. We do not make clients take plea deals and we are willing to fight as long as it takes to make certain that our clients are treated fairly and receive a fair result.