Forgery allegations can be potentially life changing. Forgery is considered a felony in all 50 states and Washington is no exception. Immediate consequences may include jail or prison time, significant fines, probation, or restitution. A forgery conviction on your record may also impact your ability to obtain housing or employment! Given the significant, devastating consequences involved, it is important to be familiar with forgery laws in Washington State.
You may be charged with forgery if you do one of the following with intent to injure or defraud (RCW 9A.60.020):
- Falsely make, complete, or alter a written instrument (RCW 9A.60.010), or
- Possess, utter, offer, or dispose of a written instrument you know to be forged
Each factor of the law will be closely examined to determine whether the forgery charge meets grounds to be punished as a criminal offense:
- Making, completing, altering, possessing, or using: A person must make, complete, alter, possess, or use a false writing to be convicted of forgery. Often when people think of forgery they mainly think of making false writings, such as checks or certificates. However, it is important to understand that altering an existing writing may also qualify as forgery if they affect the legal rights or obligations represented in the writing or document. Also, using or possessing known falsified writings also constitutes as forgery.
- Written Instruments: Written instruments, as noted above, must have apparent legal significance to be punishable by forgery. It doesn’t need to necessarily be a legal or government-issued document, but it must affect legal rights and obligations. Examples of documents that if falsified could be punishable by forgery are: drivers’ licenses and passports, financial instruments (currencies, checks), wills, patents, deeds, medical prescriptions, letters of recommendation, physicians’ notes, and works of art.
The fabricated or altered information on the document must be false, and must change the fundamental meaning of the writing itself, in order to constitute as forgery.
- Intent to defraud: The law states you must have intent to injure or defraud in order to be convicted of forgery. The intent may be directed toward a person, a group, or a government agency. If you possess or sign falsified documents without knowing they are false, you should not be subject to forgery charges.
Forgery is a Class C felony. If you have no prior convictions on your record, you may be facing prison time of up to 60 days and fines of up to $10,000, in addition to a felony conviction on your record. With prior convictions on your record, the prison sentence could be up to 18 months.
A high value is place on legitimate documentation in today’s society, both in terms of production and exchange. If documents are forged, there could be potentially significantly damaging consequences to individuals, groups, businesses, or even government entities. This contributes to why allegations of forgery are taken extremely seriously and why penalties are so severe.
We believe in your right to a second chance and we are committed to eliminating or minimizing the devastating effects a forgery conviction may have on the rest of your life. These are significant charges and you should not try to tackle them without experienced counsel to advise you appropriately and advocate on your behalf.