Forgery encompasses a number of different offenses. To commit forgery, a person must have done one of the following with the purpose to defraud or injure another:

  • Altered a document belonging to someone else without their permission; or,
  • Created, completed, executed, authenticated, issued or transferred a document so that it purports to be the act of another who did not authorize that act or falsely represented that it was produced by a fictitious person or by someone without their consent. It is forgery to produce a copy of an original document when the original never existed; or,
  • Uttered, or offered an instrument as genuine along with words or conduct demonstrating it is real or genuine while knowing it is forged.

Commonly forged items include:

  • Birth certificates
  • Marriage certificates
  • Documents of title or deeds
  • Stocks or bonds
  • Checks
  • Prescriptions for drugs
  • Passports
  • Drivers Licenses
  • Credit cards

Forgery is a broad umbrella term that encompasses many crimes of deception. Some common cases include counterfeiting and identity theft. Forgery is a crime of the fourth degree. However, if the writing is or purports to be part of an issue of money, securities, postage or revenue stamps, or other instruments, certificates or licensees issued by the government, New Jersey Prescription Blanks or part of an issue of stock, bonds or other instruments representing interest in or claims against any property or enterprise, personal identifying information or an access device it is a crime of the third degree. Forgery is a crime of the third degree if the writing purports to be a check or the writing is or purports to be 15 or more forged or altered retails sales receipts or universal product code labels.

For a fourth degree crime, you can be sentenced to up to 18 months in prison. For a third degree crime, you can be sentenced to up to 5 years in prison.

A second degree offense is charged if you make or possess materials that can be used to make forged or false government documents which could be used as a means of verifying a person’s identity or age such as a driver’s license, birth certificate or social security card. The penalty is up to 10 years in prison.


This is usually charged as a separate offense. It is the forging or imitating of a document with the purpose of defrauding another. People usually think of counterfeit money in this context.

Identity Theft

These offenses are becoming more common and often are associated with computer or internet theft of someone else’s identifying information in order to gain a financial benefit or to defraud another person. This is often accomplished by raiding someone's bank account or purchasing items using their credit card. Forgery occurs when the offender signs a document representing him or herself as another person without that person’s permission or consent.

It is considered a fourth degree crime if the benefit obtained is under $500 and the offense involves the identity of one victim. A second or subsequent offense for this conduct constitutes a crime of the third degree.

It is considered a third degree crime if the value of the benefit is at least $500 and less than $75,000 or involves the identity of at least two but less than five victims.

It becomes a second degree crime if the actor unlawfully obtained a benefit of at least $75,000, or the offense involves the identity of five or more victims.

If Arrested

Forgery is considered a crime in New Jersey with the possibility of permanent adverse consequences to your future. In order to ensure that your rights are protected and to preserve any available defenses, it is important to remember that you have the right to remain silent.

Do not volunteer any information or give any oral or written statements to anyone without the presence and knowledge of your own attorney. If you are detained, do not give any details of the offense to anyone on a telephone or to another inmate or detainee as this information can be recorded and used against you.

Do not believe any promises or guarantees of leniency or release if you give a statement. Politely decline and ask to speak to an attorney. All questioning must stop at this point.

Call a relative or friend to arrange bail for you and to have them contact an experienced criminal defense attorney.


Forgery is a white collar crime. These offenses typically involve intentional deception and breach of trust. A white collar crime can be extremely complex and may require testimony from experts in financial matters. It may consist of a considerable paper trail or electronic data that a team of attorneys and their assistants will have to review to provide a viable defense.

Some defenses may include intoxication, incapacity, or duress. These all involve a lack of or inability to form an intent to commit the crime. An accused in a sensitive position may have been coerced--or entrapped--by a government representative to commit a crime the defendant would otherwise not have committed.

Another common defense is that the defendant lacked the intent to commit the crime or had no knowledge the act was criminal.

A forgery conviction can lead to long prison sentences, considerable fines and restitution and loss of a career.

If you have been charged with forgery, it is important to have an experienced criminal defense lawyer to help protect your freedom and future.

Contact the Law Offices of Stephen S. Weinstein, P.C.
for your free personal consultation today.

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