A crime few people ever think about but, recently with the dramatic escalation of identity theft and fraudulent tax returns, it is a crime that law enforcement is taking very seriously and combating aggressively. The hyper focus on this crime has led to an expansive number arrests and a conviction of this crime often lands the defendant a stint in the county or state penitentiary.
In New York State, a person is guilty of Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument if they possess a completed or modified written instrument known by the bearer to be phony and do so with the intent to defraud or deceive another. A very broad definition that has caused many unsuspecting violators surprise when they are charged with a felony.
If you think Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument is only for the passers of bad checks and stolen credit cards then think again. Have you ever possessed a fake or altered ID for the purpose of purchasing alcohol or tobacco products while underage? How about simply altering an inspection or registration sticker on your automobile window to make it appear unexpired? Perhaps you possess someone else’s certification for a trade or skill and use it to apply for employment?
Frankly, most people view these victimless acts as nothing more than minor manipulations with the same varsity of white lies told at a dinner party. However, law enforcement treats these acts in the same light as the professional manufacturer of false Passports.
Currently there are dozens of websites on the internet selling fake driver’s licenses manufactured in Asia and Eastern Europe. For $100.00 a fake driver’s license can be purchased online completely encoded and it will scan just as a real license with the added security features such as microprint, UV ink and ghost images and come printed on Teslin card stock. The market for these fake documents primarily consists of underage High School and College students that use the fake ID’s to gain entry into nightclubs and/or purchase alcohol and tobacco products.
Knowing use and possession of any of the aforementioned manipulated documents constitutes the crime of Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument. The least serious is NYPL § 170.20 Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument 3rd Degree an “A” Misdemeanor that carries a sentence of up to one year in Jail.
The next offense is NYPL § 170.25 Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument 2nd Degree a “D” Felony that carries a sentence of up to 7 years in state custody. Most often persons using forged checks or stolen credit cards are charged with this crime.
Finally, NYPL § 170.30 Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument 1st Degree a “C” Felony that carries a sentence of up to 15 years in state custody. This crime is used most often for counterfeiters of United States Currency.
If you are charged with Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument, you need a criminal defense attorney to protect your rights and explain your options. A conviction for Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument will not only become a part of your permanent record, it also carries the additional stigma as crime of deceit, which will call into question your honesty for years after a conviction. Call my office to schedule a free confidential consultation.