Skip to Main Content

What Is the Penalty for Using Counterfeit Money in Texas?

Theft is theft even when there is no violence involved. For example, if you “purchase” goods from a store using counterfeit currency, you can be charged with a felony. Although counterfeiting is generally considered a white-collar crime, the penalty for such an act is actually more substantial than if you were simply caught shoplifting, which is only a misdemeanor in most cases.

Texarkana Court Upholds Conviction, 3-Year Sentences of Woman Who Passed Fake $100 Bills

To illustrate this in practice, a Texas appeals court recently upheld the conviction and sentence of a woman convicted of two acts of counterfeiting. In both cases, the defendant allegedly “passed counterfeit $100 bills.” A jury sentenced her to three years in jail on each count. For the sake of comparison, shoplifting $100 worth of goods is a Class B misdemeanor, for which the maximum possible sentence is 180 days in jail.

Here is some additional background on the Texarkana case, Jaral v. State. According to prosecutors, on January 13, 2018, the defendant intentionally used a counterfeit $100 bill to pay for goods at a Dollar general store. Some time later, she passed another counterfeit bill at a Braum’s Ice Cream & Dairy Store.

On appeal, the defendant only challenged her conviction on the second counterfeiting charge, i.e., passing the counterfeit bill at Braum’s. The defendant insisted she was at her home 25 miles away from the store at the time of the Braum’s incident, and the only evidence connecting her to the scene was a “grainy surveillance video” from which it was “objectively impossible” to identify the defendant as the perpetrator.

The appeals court disagreed. It said the surveillance footage was “fairly clear” and showed a woman who was “remarkably similar, if not identical” in appearance to the defendant. Additionally, the jury heard testimony from a Dollar General clerk who positively identified the defendant as the woman who passed her the first counterfeit bill. And as the appeals court noted, the “counterfeit bill used at the Dollar General contained the same serial number as the one used at Braum’s.”

Ultimately, it was up to the jury to assess the quality of the evidence. And the jurors determined the defendant was the woman in the surveillance footage, and therefore the person who passed the counterfeit bill. As a result, the appeals court said the defendant’s conviction was valid.

Speak with a Galveston or League City White Collar Criminal Defense Lawyer Today

It is important to note that in any criminal case involving allegations of counterfeiting or forgery, the prosecution must prove–beyond a reasonable doubt–that the defendant acted “with intent to defraud or harm another.” In other words, there must be evidence that the defendant knew they had a counterfeit bill and used it intentionally. If the defendant genuinely did not know they had a counterfeit bill when they tried to use it, they cannot be held criminally responsible.

If you have been charged with counterfeiting, forgery, or any other type of white collar offense and need immediate assistance from an experienced Houston criminal defense attorney, contact the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates right away. Call (281) 280-0100 .