It used to be that financial forgery was limited to physical signatures, checks, and drivers’ licenses. After all, those were about the only ways financial transactions occurred. Keeping an eye out for forgeries was usually as simple as checking for watermarks and testing large bills. That’s not the case anymore.
In today’s world, there is almost an infinite number of ways to forge false documents. Things like Photoshop, online check deposits, and PDF document signing all make it much simpler for people to commit forgery.
Knowledge is the best weapon against crimes like this, and you can bet law enforcement is working on educating internally. The best way to stay ahead of charges like these? Know what the law says about forgery yourself.
Essential Elements in Proving a Forgery Crime in Illinois
There are several elements that must exist before something is legally considered a forgery. Simply copying something is not enough. After all, that would make every picture of a driver’s license a forgery case. There’s more to it than that.
Forgery Requires Duplication…and Use
The definition of forgery is creating an imitation of an object of value, like a document or ID, and using it with the intent to deceive someone else. That implies two things:
- First, the item forged must be valuable. Simply faking a page of a book to trick someone else is not a criminal forgery.
- Second, the fake must actually be used to deceive someone. Make the world’s best fake ID and don’t use it? You can’t be charged with a forgery crime. It must be used for fraudulent purposes.
Forgery Beyond Physical Signatures and Paper Documents
Illinois law has expanded beyond tangible signatures and paper documents when it comes to forgery. UPC codes, digital signatures, and other digital documents are covered under Illinois law. That means that making a fake UPC code counts as a forgery just as much as a fake ID…Still, it’s only forgery when the forge is actually utilized to defraud somebody.
Photoshopping your tax return documents to get a larger return is another example of forgery in the Internet age. So is using a digital signature to sign a document for someone who is not present.
What Happens When Charged with an Illinois Forgery Crime
Because of the expanded number of crimes that now count as a forgery in this state, penalties for a forgery conviction in Illinois depend upon the circumstances and details of your case.
Most forgery crimes are prosecuted as Class 3 felonies. In Illinois, that is punishable by two to five years in prison. However, it can be extended to 10 years if you’ve had prior convictions for the same charge.
If you only forge a single UPC code, on the other hand, plan on facing lesser Class 4 felony charges. A conviction is worth 1-3 years in prison and fines up to $25,000.
Forge an academic degree, meanwhile, and you’re more likely to receive a comparative slap on the wrist. Typically a crime like this is considered a misdemeanor that might result in a year of jail time.
More likely, though, you’ll be let go from whatever job you got when you used it if your secret is found out.
As you can see, forgery convictions carry a wide array of possible penalties depending on the severity of an offender’s fraudulent activity. The legal and financial systems put their trust in documents, so faking one is penalized for more heavily than say, using a fake UPC code on a side hustle.
If you have been accused of forgery, your most important step is finding a knowledgeable Illinois lawyer to represent you. The right attorney can help you defend yourself and potentially clear your name.
About the Author
Sami Azhari has been working as a lawyer since 2007, after receiving his Juris Doctor from the Michigan State University College of Law. He has handled numerous state and federal cases and is known throughout the Chicago and Rolling Meadows area for providing his clients with high-quality, skilled representation. He has been recognized by SuperLawyers, the National Trial Lawyers Association, and other notable organizations, and has spoken at a number of legal conferences.