From an overarching standpoint, forgery involves the creation of a fake document or the alteration of an existing document. For example, some minors possess forged identification cards to illegally purchase alcohol. Some scammers send forged emails pretending to be a legitimate institution, such as a bank or government agency.
Regardless of the type of forged document, the intent often remains the same. These fake documents exist to misrepresent important facts or details and defraud other parties. To deter this type of behavior, Illinois employs strict laws against and severe penalties for committing forgery offenses.
How is Forgery Defined in Illinois?
720 ILCS 5/17-3 defines the crime of forgery in Illinois. Under this section, forgery occurs when a person:
- Creates a fake document or alters any existing document, with intent to use the document to defraud another party;
- Issues or delivers a fake document, with knowledge that the document is forged;
- Possesses a fake document, with knowledge that the document is forged and intent to issue or deliver the document;
- Unlawfully utilizes another person’s digital signature, as defined by the Financial Institutions Electronic Documents and Digital Signature Act; or
- Unlawfully utilizes another person’s signature device, as defined by the Electronic Commerce Security Act.
Illinois law does provide a key exception concerning academic degrees. It does not qualify as forgery to possess, issue, or deliver certain fake academic degrees. The false degree must contain a clear and ambiguous statement indicating it exists solely for novelty purposes.
How is Forgery Punished in Illinois?
720 ILCS 5/17-3 also establishes the punishment for forgery offenses under Illinois law. This section provides a general penalty for most forgery offenses and two other penalties for less severe offenses.
If a person forges a coin or an academic degree, it is a Class A misdemeanor under Illinois law. If convicted for this kind of misdemeanor, the offender can face up to 364 days in jail, $2,500 in fines, and 24 months of probation.
If a person forges a single Universal Price Code Label, it is a Class 4 felony under Illinois law. If convicted for this kind of felony, the offender can face up to three years in prison, $25,000 in fines, and 30 months of probation.
In most other cases, forgery is a Class 3 felony under Illinois law. If convicted for this kind of felony, the offender can face up to five years in prison, $25,000 in fines, and 30 months of probation.
Do You Need Legal Help?
No matter what the criminal offense, all charges are serious. A sound strategy and an aggressive defense are essential for a positive outcome. To protect your rights in such situations, it is highly advisable to retain legal counsel from an experienced criminal defense attorney.
The Prior Law Firm in Bloomington, Illinois, has proven experience in matters of criminal defense. If you need legal help with criminal defense, contact us today for a free consultation. You can reach The Prior Law Firm by phone at (309) 827-4300, email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by completing an online form.
(image courtesy of Sydney Pearce)