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Florida Forgery Laws

Overview of Florida Forgery Laws

Florida criminalizes several offenses stemming from the commission of forgery. A person commits forgery when, with intent to injure or defraud any person, he or she "falsely makes, alters, forges or counterfeits" any written instrument specified in the state forgery statute. Documents specifically prohibited from being forged include:

  • a public record, certificate, return or attestation of any clerk or register of a court, public register, notary public, town clerk or any public officer, where such certificate, return or attestation may be received as a legal proof in relation to a matter
  • a charter, deed, will, testament, bond, or writing obligatory, letter of attorney, policy of insurance, bill of lading, bill of exchange or promissory note
  • an order, acquittance, or discharge for money or other property
  • an acceptance of a bill of exchange or promissory note for the payment of money
  • any receipt for money, goods or other property
  • any passage ticket, pass or other evidence of transportation issued by a common carrier

To secure a conviction for forgery, the prosecution must therefore prove that the defendant (1) made, altered, forged or counterfeited (2) a written instrument falsely purporting to be that of another person or entity (3) and appearing to have some legal significance (4) with intent to injure or defraud any person. The intent element of the offense requires that the defendant have made or altered the forged instrument with the specific intent to injure, that is, to prejudice or defraud another person. Although the defendant must act with such intent, he or she need not actually injure or defraud another person to complete the crime.

Uttering a forged instrument is a separate offense under the statute. A person is guilty of this offense when he or she "utters and publishes as true a false, forged or altered record, deed, instrument or other writing… knowing the same to be false, altered, forged or counterfeited, with intent to injure or defraud any person." The offense applies only to those records and documents, listed above, which are expressly enumerated in the forgery statute.

Defenses to Forgery Charges

  • Lack of intent to injure or defraud
  • Lack of knowledge that a writing was forged
  • Insanity

Penalties and Sentences

Florida classifies basic forgery as a felony of the third degree. Conviction for uttering a forged instrument, and all other crimes classified as forgery crimes, are also felonies of the third degree. In Florida, the maximum statutory penalty for a third-degree felony is five years in prison. The court may also impose a fine of up to $5,000 for commission of the crime.

The total of prison time and probation given to a defendant who is convicted of a forgery crime may not exceed the maximum term of five years; thus, a defendant may not be sentenced to five years in prison plus an additional probation period.

Florida Forgery Statute

Florida Statutes Section 831.01

Note: State laws are constantly changing -- please contact a Florida criminal defense attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

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