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Forging Documents in Texas

President Trump’s conviction in New York for forging business records raises interesting questions about how the case would be analyzed in Texas. Each state has its own criminal laws, so we don’t have the same crimes as the Empire State. Still, forging documents in Texas is a crime, and you can face felony charges under Texas law. Contact Tad Nelson if you are a business executive worried about criminal prosecution. Our white-collar defense lawyer in Galveston can analyze the facts and determine if a crime was committed. We can also defend you from prosecution.

Texas’s Forgery Law

Section 32.21 of the Penal Code is the main forgery law. A person commits forgery if they forge a document with the intent of harming or defrauding someone else.

To forge something is given a broad definition in the statute: to alter, complete, make, authenticate or execute a writing so that it purports to be:

  • A copy when no original exists, or
  • Executed at a time and place when it wasn’t, or
  • The act of someone who did not authorize it.
  • The statute applies to any forged “writing,” which is also given a broad definition:
  • Money, stamps, credit cards, coins, tokens, or seals;
  • Rights, privileges, identifications, or symbols of value; and
  • Method of recording information.

Put simply, a person commits forgery when they falsify a document to defraud someone.

Examples of Forgery

There are some classic examples:

  • Signing someone else’s name on a check
  • Changing the amount on a check
  • Printing fake stamps or tokens
  • Creating fake credit cards
  • Writing down the wrong date on a document
  • Submitting fake tax returns when applying for an apartment

The key is whether you did these acts with the intent to defraud or hurt someone. For example, a wife might sign her husband’s name on a check. He knows she’s doing it, and she is depositing the amount in their checking account. There is no intent to defraud anyone, so this is not criminal—even though she signed someone else’s name.

How Do You Defend Against Forgery Charges?

Interestingly, forgery only requires an intent to defraud someone. You don’t have to actually succeed in the attempt. So it’s not a good argument to say your victim wasn’t harmed or didn’t lose money, because those aren’t requirements.

Instead, we might challenge:

  • Lack of intent. You might have forged a document, but you didn’t intend to defraud anyone.
  • Lack of knowledge. You might not have known a document was forged when you used it or presented it. For example, you might have used counterfeit bills to pay for goods at a store, but you had no idea they weren’t real bills.
  • Lack of evidence. There might be reasonable doubt about whether the document is really forged or doubt about other critical facts.
  • Violation of the statute of limitations. The state can’t take forever to prosecute someone. They typically get 10 years from the date you committed the offense. If they wait too long, we can ask a judge for a dismissal of charges.

Penalties for Forgery

You could face misdemeanor or felony charges, depending on the document and what you used it for.

For example, it is a state jail felony if you forged a credit card, check, security instrument, deed, codicil, will, or mortgage. The legislature believes these are significant documents to forge, so you could spend up to two years in state jail if convicted of forging your father’s will, for example.

Likewise, you can face third degree felony charges for forging postage stamps, government records, money, or securities. That would result in up to 10 years in prison as a felon.

If you tried to obtain goods or services with a forged document, then your charge will depend on the amount you tried to fraudulently obtain. Forgery is like theft in this respect:

  • Less than $100: Class C misdemeanor
  • $100 but less than $750: Class B misdemeanor
  • $750 but less than $2,500: Class A misdemeanor
  • $2,500 but less than $30,000: State jail felony
  • $30,000 but less than $150,000:  Third degree felony
  • $150,000 but less than $300,000: Second degree felony
  • $300,000 or more: First degree felony

What’s more: if you try to defraud a senior citizen, then your offense gets bumped up one level. So a Class C misdemeanor could become a Class B, all because the intended victim was elderly.

Lawyer Up Fast

Forgery is a classic white-collar crime, and prosecutors are becoming more aggressive by pursuing business executives and others for alleged offenses. Tad Nelson is the right lawyer for you, so call our firm today to schedule a meeting.