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Feb. 29 2024

Understanding Forgery Laws in Illinois

Posted By: azhari dev

Forgery is a serious crime that carries significant penalties under Illinois law. Defined as the act of making, altering, or possessing a document with the intent to defraud, forge-related offenses can result in severe legal consequences.

What is Forgery?

Illinois defines forgery under 720 ILCS 5/17-3 as knowingly making, altering, or possessing a document intending to defraud. Common forged documents include checks, contracts, wills, and identification cards. Intending to defraud means the individual aims to deceive another party for financial gain or some other unlawful purpose.

The crime of forgery is outlined in 720 ILCS 5/17-3. A person may be charged with forgery when, with intent to defraud, he or she knowingly:

  • Makes a false document or alters any document to make it false, and the document is apparently capable of defrauding another or
  • Issues or delivers a false document knowing it was thus made or altered; or
  • Possesses, with intent to deliver or issue, a false document knowing it to have been thus made or altered; or
  • Unlawfully uses the digital signature or
  • Unlawfully uses the signature device of another to create an electronic signature of that person.

720 ILCS 5/17-3 was amended in 2012 to broaden the definition of forgery. The prior statute required that the document seem like another person created it for it to be illegal. Now, a document can be considered forged even if the document’s signature is of its creator. Accordingly, the identity of the maker no longer matters.

Actions Leading to Forgery Charges

  • Various actions can lead to forgery charges in Illinois, including:
  • Creating counterfeit currency or altering existing bills.
  • Signing someone else’s name without their permission on legal documents.
  • Fabricating or altering official records or contracts.
  • Possessing forged documents with the intent to use them for fraudulent purposes.

Engaging in any of these activities can result in serious legal consequences, including felony charges and imprisonment.

The Legal Process and Rights in Forgery Cases

The legal process for forgery charges typically begins with an investigation, followed by charges being filed if sufficient evidence is found. Defendants have the right to legal representation, the right to a fair trial, and the right to confront witnesses against them. Throughout the legal proceedings, the accused also has the right to due process, ensuring fair treatment under the law.

Investigation and Charges

Forgery cases typically start with an investigation, which may be initiated by reports from victims, financial institutions, or through routine checks by regulatory bodies. Law enforcement agencies gather evidence, including documents, digital records, and witness statements. If there is sufficient evidence, charges are formally filed against the accused.

Arraignment and Plea

After charges are filed, the defendant is arraigned, which is their first appearance in court. The charges are read during arraignment, and the defendant is asked to enter a plea (guilty, not guilty, or no contest). This stage is crucial because it sets the direction of the legal process.

Pre-Trial Motions and Hearings

Before the trial, there may be several hearings and pre-trial motions. Defense attorneys often file motions to dismiss charges if they believe the evidence is insufficient or if there were procedural errors. Discovery motions are also common, allowing the defense to obtain evidence the prosecution plans to use at trial.


If the case proceeds to trial, the prosecution and defense can present their evidence and arguments. In forgery cases, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed forgery with the intent to defraud. The defense, meanwhile, will seek to cast doubt on the evidence, challenge the credibility of witnesses, or demonstrate the absence of intent to defraud.

Verdict and Sentencing

After the trial, if the jury (or judge in a bench trial) finds the defendant guilty, the case moves to sentencing. Illinois law outlines specific penalties for forgery, but the judge has discretion within those parameters. Factors influencing sentencing may include the defendant’s criminal history, the circumstances of the offense, and any mitigating factors.


Defendants convicted of forgery have the right to appeal their conviction and/or the severity of their sentence. An appeal is a legal process for reviewing the trial court’s decision to ensure the trial was conducted fairly and according to law. This process can be complex and time-consuming, requiring a thorough understanding of appellate law.

Defense Strategies in Forgery Cases

Individuals accused of forgery have several defense strategies at their disposal. A common defense is challenging the prosecution’s proof of intent to defraud. Since intent is a crucial element of forgery, demonstrating the lack of intent to deceive can be a powerful defense. Another strategy may involve proving the accused did not know the document was forged or arguing that the document, even if altered, was not capable of defrauding another party.

Penalties for Forgery in Illinois

Forgery in Illinois is a Class 2 felony, punishable by 3-7 years in prison, but is eligible for probation. The only times a forgery is anything other than a Class 2 felony is when only one Universal Price Code Label is forged, which would be a Class 4 felony, or when an academic degree or coin is forged, which would be a Class A misdemeanor.

730 ILCS 5/5-6-3.4 – Second Chance Probation

In Illinois, forgery charges may be eligible for second-chance probation. Second-chance probation allows individuals to avoid imprisonment and serve their sentences under probation supervision. However, eligibility for second chance probation is subject to various factors, including the individual’s criminal history, the offense’s circumstances, and the court’s discretion.

This statute provides the legal framework for the court to consider granting second-chance probation as an alternative to incarceration for certain eligible offenses. It lays out the conditions and requirements for probation and the factors the court may consider when determining eligibility, such as the nature of the offense, the defendant’s criminal history, and the potential for rehabilitation.

Forgery is a serious crime in Illinois with significant legal ramifications. Understanding the elements of forgery, the associated penalties, and the possibility of second-chance probation is crucial for individuals facing forgery charges or seeking to avoid involvement in such offenses. If you or someone you know is accused of forgery, it’s essential to seek legal counsel immediately to protect your rights and explore potential defense strategies.

Accused of Forgery in Illinois? Contact Sami Azhari

Forgery charges can have serious consequences. If you’re facing such charges, immediate legal action is necessary. Sami Azhari has the expertise in Illinois forgery laws to defend your rights and strive for the best possible outcome.

With a focus on results, Sami offers experienced legal representation for anyone accused of forgery. Don’t navigate the legal system alone.

Contact Sami Azhari today to discuss your case and explore your defense options. Your fight for justice is essential, beginning with the right legal support.

Act now to protect your future. Reach out to Sami Azhari for a direct approach to your forgery defense.