When it is reported that a document was forged and that the forgery was committed with the intent to injure or defraud another person, the penalties are harsh.
Investigations of forged documents in Florida commonly include:
- personal checks;
- commercial checks;
- travelers checks;
- money orders;
- U.S. Treasury check;
- State of Florida checks;
- titles to property;
- stock certificates; and
- credit card invoices.
Law enforcement officers and prosecutors take an aggressive stance when it comes to investigating and prosecuting these crimes. Under Florida Statute § 831.01, forgery is classified as a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
Attorney for Forgery Crimes in Tampa, FL
If you have been charged with forgery then contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at the Sammis Law Firm. Related charges include theft or uttering a forged instrument.
We represent clients charged with serious felony fraud and forgery charges throughout the greater Tampa Bay area including Tampa in Hillsborough County, New Port Richey and Dade City in Pasco County, Brooksville in Hernando County, and St. Petersburg and Clearwater in Pinellas County.
Forgery under Florida Statute § 831.01
Florida Statute § 831.01 provides the elements to the offense of forgery:
- Whoever with intent to injure or defraud any person;
- Falsely makes, alters, forges or counterfeits;
- A document of any clerk or register of a court, public register, notary public, town clerk or any public officer including:
- a public record;
- a certificate;
- a return; or
- an attestation.
- The instrument must have some legal efficacy because it relates to a matter wherein:
- such certificate, return or attestation may be received as a legal proof; or
- a charter, deed, will testament, bond, or writing obligatory, letter of attorney, policy of insurance, bill of lading, bill of exchange or promissory note; or
- an order, acquittance, or discharge for money or other property, or an acceptance of a bill of exchange or promissory note for the payment of money; or
- any receipt for money, goods or other property; or
- any passage ticket, pass or other evidence of transportation issued by a common carrier.
The Difference Between Forgery and Uttering a Forged Instrument
As a general rule, most people get caught while uttering a forged instrument because the act of forging the instrument is harder to detect. Evidence alone that the defendant uttered a forged instrument, does not by itself establish that the defendant forged the instrument.
Under Florida Statute §831.01, forgery is committed when a person “falsely makes, alters, forges or counterfeits … an order … for money … with intent to injure or defraud any person…” So for those prosecutions, the state needs evidence to show who committed the forgery itself, including a confession, witness testimony, or handwriting analysis.
Keep in mind that crimes of uttering a forged instrument and forgery are separate and distinct from each other. Credible evidence must be presented to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the person who uttered the forged check, is also the person who forged it.
Joint Investigations with the Postal Inspector’s Office
If it is alleged that a State of Florida or U.S. Treasury check has been forged, then local law enforcement officer will notify the Postal Inspector’s Office. Postal Inspectors, who are federal law enforcement officers, will respond to the scene of the investigation to assist in conducting a joint investigation.
Charges for forgery of a State of Florida or U.S. Treasury check can be prosecuted in either state or federal court. The state and federal investigators have concurrent jurisdiction in many of these cases.
Read more about criminal investigations by Postal Inspectors in Florida.
Finding a Forgery Defense Attorney in Florida
If you have been charged with forgery under Florida Statute Section 831.01 or uttering a forged instrument under Section 831.02, then contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at the Sammis Law Firm.
We represent clients charged with a variety of criminal offenses in state court throughout the Tampa Bay area including Hillsborough County, Polk County, Pasco County, Pinellas County, and Hernando County, FL.
The Tampa Police Department has developed very detailed standard operating procedures for investigating crimes of forgery. This SOP was in effect as of December 31, 2015 and Supersedes SOP 316, dated 1/99.
I. PURPOSE: To establish a uniform procedure [for cases in Tampa, Hillsborough County, FL] in the reporting of forged documents including, but not limited to: personal checks, commercial checks, travelers checks, money orders, U.S. Treasury checks, State of Florida checks, wills, titles to property, stock certificates, and credit card invoices.
II. DEFINITION: F.S. § 831.01 defines forgery: Whoever falsely makes, alters, forges or counterfeits a public record, or a certificate, return or attestation of any clerk or register of a court, public register, notary public, town clerk or any public officer, in relation to a matter wherein such certificate, return or attestation may be received as a legal proof; or a charter, deed, will testament, bond, or writing obligatory, letter of attorney, policy of insurance, bill of lading, bill of exchange or promissory note, or an order, acquittance, or discharge for money or other property, or an acceptance of a bill of exchange or promissory note for the payment of money, or any receipt for money, goods or other property, or any passage ticket, pass or other evidence of transportation issued by a common carrier, with intent to injure or defraud any person, shall be guilty of a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in F.S. § 772.082, § 775.083, or § 775.084.
A. In offenses concerning forged documents, the arriving officer will detain the suspect and determine the kind of document involved in the forgery. The officer shall at all times protect the document from contamination.
B. If an U.S. Treasury check or State of Florida check has been forged, the officer will contact the duty detective or his/her immediate supervisor for review. The duty detective or the officer’s supervisor will notify the Postal Inspector’s Office immediately at (813) 281-5200, twenty-four hours a day. In many cases the Postal Inspectors will respond to the scene to assist in conducting a joint investigation. [The Tampa Police Department] and the Postal Inspectors will render appropriate mutual assistance as required. Since there is concurrent jurisdiction in most of these cases, the decision to proceed with State or Federal charges will be made by those members of both agencies conducting the joint investigation.
C. In all cases of forgery, the officer will take whatever investigative action is necessary to determine that the document has been forged or altered. The officer will attempt to contact the owner or payee of the check/credit card to determine if it has been lost or stolen, and whether a police report has been made. The officer will check Tampa Police Department records to verify that an offense report has been originated.
D. If the officer is unable to determine that the check/credit card has been lost or stolen, a copy of the document and identification will be made whenever practical, and an information report will be prepared to document the circumstances. Copies of the document and identification will be attached to the information report. This report will then be referred to the Criminal Investigations Division, Economic Crimes Squad for investigation.
E. In the event that a forgery/credit card fraud has occurred, whether the suspect is at the scene or not, the officer will originate a General Offense Report and refer the document to the Criminal Investigations Division. The officer will confiscate the original documents and credit cards for evidence and submit copies of the documents and credit cards for scanning to the General Offense Report. The report number will be written on all documents submitted for scanning. The officer will make every effort to contact the account holder/credit cardholder and have him or her sign an affidavit of forgery, witnessed by the officer. The original forgery affidavit will be placed into the Evidence Control Section as evidence with the original documents. These documents should be protected from contamination so that the documents may be submitted at a later date for possible fingerprint comparison or handwriting analysis. The officer should not submit the document for comparisons. The officer should further ensure that: the business making the complaint is listed as the victim; the person making the complaint as the complainant; and the account holder listed as an additional witness in the context of the report. The officer must recognize that whether a transaction is completed or not, the presentation of the forged document constitutes the offense of uttering and should be investigated as such.
F. When complainants proceed to the Tampa police department to file a forgery complaint, and no General Offense Report has been originated, the Delayed Crimes Investigative Unit will originate that report and collect all evidence involved in the offense, as provided in Section E, above.
G. This department does not handle complaints of “Worthless Checks.” Both misdemeanor and felony worthless check cases will be processed through the Hillsborough County’s State Attorney’s Intake Office located at 700 E. Twiggs Street, Tampa, FL. All such complaints coming to the attention of any member of this department will be directed to this location. This paragraph applies only to “Worthless Checks.” All check cases involving “Stop Payment” or “Forgery” shall continue to be investigated by this department. All complaints of “stop payment” checks will be referred to the Criminal Investigations Division, Economic Crimes Squad during normal business hours.
This article was last updated on Friday, May 8, 2020.