The general notion of forgery is of someone signing another person’s name on a document for financial gain, such as writing a check on someone else’s account or creating a fake will. While these examples are correct as far as they go, they do not capture the full meaning of how Oklahoma defines the crime of forgery.
Forgery in Oklahoma is an intent-based crime, meaning that one must have a purpose in mind to commit the act in question (as opposed to a crime that may involve recklessness or criminal negligence). The intent must be not only to make a false writing or to materially alter an otherwise legitimate document or instrument, but also to take advantage of another through fraud.
The intent to defraud must be coupled with the creation of a forgery of sufficient quality or believability that it is actually capable of being used to commit a fraud. In other words, a forged document that is made so haphazardly that no one would believe it to be authentic may not rise to the level of a criminal forgery.
Lastly, to complete an act of forgery one must “utter the instrument.” What this means is that the forgery must be passed off to someone else as having been legitimately made by someone other than the forger.
Oklahoma statutes address a multitude of specific types of forgery. There are distinct statutes that make the following forgeries illegal:
- Forgery of wills, deeds, codicils or other instruments
- Forgery or stock certificates or securities
- Forgery of certifications or conveyances
- Forgery of financial notes or instruments
- Forgery of coins
- Forgery of engraving plates
- Forgery of corporate documents, such as incorporation or organization
- Forgery of tickets
- Forgeries of public records
- Forgery of postage stamps
The above examples do not comprise all of the kinds of forgeries that are illegal in this state. As a general rule, as long as the basic elements of forgery exist — the false writing or alteration, the capability of the forged instrument to defraud, and the intent to defraud — then most any instrument can be a forgery.
Oklahoma statutes make forgeries punishable as first or second-degree felonies, or as misdemeanors in certain limited situations. First-degree forgery is punishable by not less than seven years in prison, and up to 20 years. Second-degree forgery is punishable by up to seven years in prison.
Defending against a criminal charge of forgery can be challenging, but there are defenses that can be raised on your behalf. For example, if it can be shown that someone else actually committed the crime, or that the document would not be capable of being used for a fraudulent purpose, or if the instrument in question was not “uttered”, then any of these may constitute a defense.
Effective defense counsel will understand all of the elements of fraud generally, as well as the particulars of any specific statute under which the state is basing its prosecution, so that defenses to each element of the definition of the alleged forgery can be examined and where possible challenged. If even one element of the crime can be cast into reasonable doubt, it may be possible to avoid a conviction for forgery even if the other elements exist.
If you are loved one is charged with forgery, let the Hunsucker Legal Group give you a free case review to see how we can protect you. Call 405-231-5600 for your free no obligation consultation. Located at 600 West Sheridan in the Historic Film Row, we offer free on-site parking and are completely handicap accessible.