Fraud & Forgery

The crime of forgery is different than what you may picture in your head when you hear the name of the offense. Most people just think of a fake signature on a check, but there are other ways a forgery can occur. In Massachusetts the Commonwealth must prove four things to establish that a forgery occurred. Those things are:

In order to prove the defendant guilty of forgery, the Commonwealth must prove two things beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • First: That the defendant (falsified one or more significant parts of the document in question) (altered one or more significant parts of the document in question) (counterfeited the document in question to make it appear to be genuine); and
  • Second: That the defendant did so with the intent to injure or to defraud someone.

To have a forgery, something relating to a legal document itself, as distinguished from its contents, must be false. Making a false statement in a document is a separate crime under some circumstances (this is more akin to a fraud), but it is not the offense of forgery, which is concerned with the genuineness of the document itself, rather than the truth of its contents.

Forgery can be committed in three ways: The first is to counterfeit or produce what appears to be a genuine legal document, but which is in fact a phony document. The second way is to falsely fill in one or more important parts of a genuine document — for example, by forging someone else’s signature on a check or a bill of sale. The third way is closely related to the second: altering in a significant way one or more parts of a genuine document that has already been made out — for example, changing the amount on a check.

Besides proving that the defendant (counterfeited) (falsified) (altered) the document in question, the Commonwealth must also prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant acted with the specific intention of defrauding someone. As you can see a forgery is a crime that occur under varied circumstances, and the intent of the defendant is extremely important. For example one spouse may ask or permit the other spouse to sign their name to a check, and while this practice is not advisable, it may or may not be a forgery depending on the surrounding circumstances.

You can find more information about the penalties for forgery at:

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