Forgery or Uttering a Forged Instrument
Under Florida law, the criminal offense of uttering a forged instrument is a third degree felony which is punishable by up to five years in prison. The most common factual scenario is that a person is accused of signing another person’s name to a document such as a check.
Forgery is defined as making or altering a document with the intent to injure or defraud another person. Uttering is presenting the document with the intention to defraud some other person.
A conviction for forgery or uttering a forged instrument are both considered to be crimes of dishonesty. A conviction for this type of charge shows up in even the most basic background checks.
Attorneys for Forgery or Uttering in Tampa, FL
At Sammis Law Firm, our criminal defense attorneys represent men and women charged with the serious criminal offense of forgery or uttering a forged instrument or related charges.
Most forgery offenses are charged as “Forgery — Uttering” under Florida Statute § 831.02. Forgery offenses can also be charged under Florida Statute § 831.01, Fla. Stat.
Our attorneys represent clients charged with theft and fraud-related offenses including forgery and uttering a forged instrument throughout the greater Tampa Bay area including Tampa in Hillsborough County, and the surrounding counties of Hernando County, Pasco County, Pinellas County, and Polk County, FL.
If you have been accused of forgery or uttering a forged instrument in Tampa, Hillsborough County, FL, contact a criminal defense attorney at the Sammis Law Firm to discuss the fact of your theft-related charges during a free, confidential consultation.
Call (813) 250-0500 today.
The Elements of Forgery § Section 831.01
Under Florida Statute § 831.01, the crime of forgery requires proof beyond all reasonable about that the person accused of the crime did the following:
- falsely counterfeited, made or altered a document; and
- intended to injure or defraud some person or firm.
Under Florida’s forgery statute, the prosecutor with the State Attorney’s Office does not necessarily have to prove that the defendant intended to use the document himself or herself or personally profit from its use.
Instead, it is sufficient if the defendant intended that some person would use the document to injure or defraud another person.
In some types of forgery cases, the prosecutor is not even required to prove what person the defendant intended to injury or defraud if it is proven that some person would be injured or defrauded.
The Elements of Uttering a Forged Instrument under §831.02
Under Florida Statute § 831.02, the elements of the criminal offense of Uttering a Forgery Instrument include the following:
- uttering and publishing as true a false, forged, or altered instrument;
- knowing the instrument to be false, altered, forged, or counterfeited; and
- intending to injure or defraud.
Only intent to injury or defraud is required. In other words, it is not required that the intended victim was actually defrauded, only that the forged instrument was presented.
For instance, if a forged check is presented at the bank, but the bank detects the forgery and does not cash the check, the prosecutor will still argue that the crime was committed because the forged check was presented to the bank with the intention to defraud.
Sufficient Evidence of Knowledge for Uttering Charges
Under Florida Statute Section 831.02, the prosecutor must prove knowledge that the instrument was forged. Under this element, it is not sufficient for the prosecutor with the State Attorney’s Office to show that the Defendant should have known the instrument was forged.
Instead, the prosecutor is required to prove the defendant had actual knowledge that the check had been forged.
In many of these cases, the detective or law enforcement officer investigating the charges will interrogate the defendant in order to obtain a confession, or direct evidence that the Defendant knew that the instrument was forged. In other cases, this knowledge element can be proven through circumstantial evidence.
In a case with only circumstantial evidence, the prosecutor must also overcome any reasonable hypothesis of innocence presented at trial by the Defendant that he or she lacked knowledge that the instrument was forged.
It is not sufficient for the State Attorney’s Office to show that the defendant should have known the instrument was forged. Instead, the prosecutor is required to prove the defendant had actual knowledge that the check had been forged. See Linn v. State, 921 So. 2d 830, 833 (Fla. 2d DCA 2006).
Such knowledge may be proved by circumstantial evidence. For example, in J.N.W. v. State, 361 So.2d 826, 826 (Fla. 1st DCA 1978), the court held that “the circumstantial evidence of [defendant’s] guilty knowledge was sufficient” to support his conviction for uttering a forged instrument.
The means adopted to produce the instrument are immaterial for the charge of uttering a forged instrument, because the offense requires proof of trying to defraud another through any writing which culprit knows to be a forgery. For this reason, the prosecutor is not required to proof that the forgery was created in any particular way such as by falsely making or altering it.
Examples of Uttering a Forged Instrument
If the defendant filled out blank checks to fictitious payees that were cashed in stores by another person who shared the cash with the defendant, then the defendant was properly convicted of uttering and publishing forged check. Ausburn v. State, 216 So.2d 84 (Fla. 2d DCA 1968).
Likewise, the signing of an alias to blank travelers cheques could constitute forgery where fictitious names were used as an instrument of fraud for the sole purpose of negotiating travelers cheques that defendants knew they did not own. Folk v. State, 192 So.2d 44 (Fla. 3d DCA 1966).
The criminal offense of Forgery requires proof beyond all reasonable doubt of two elements. First, it must be proven that the Defendant falsely made, altered, forged or counterfeited a document identified in the charging document. Secondly, it must be proven that the Defendant intended to injure or defraud some person or firm.
- 831.025 Evidence in prosecution for forgery or counterfeiting.
- 831.03 Forging or counterfeiting private labels; possession of reproduction materials.
- 831.04 Penalty for changing or forging certain instruments of writing.
- 831.06 Fictitious signature of officer of corporation.
- 831.07 Forging bank bills, checks, drafts, or promissory notes.
- 831.08 Possessing certain forged notes, bills, checks, or drafts.
- 831.09 Uttering forged bills, checks, drafts, or notes.
- 831.10 Second conviction of uttering forged bills.
- 831.11 Bringing into the state forged bank bills, checks, drafts, or notes.
- 831.18 Making or possessing instruments for forging bills.
- 831.21 Forging or counterfeiting doctor’s certificate of examination.
This article was last updated on Thursday, March 21, 2019.