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Pennsylvania Forgery Laws

Overview of Pennsylvania Forgery Laws

The crime of forgery, like those of issuing bad checks or false personation, is based on fraud. In Pennsylvania, a person is guilty of forgery if, with intent to defraud or injure anyone, or with knowledge that he or she is facilitating a fraud or injury to be perpetrated by another person, the actor:

  • alters any writing of another without that person's authority
  • makes, completes, executes, authenticates, issues or transfers any writing so that it purports to (a) be the act of another person who did not authorize that act, (b) to have been executed at a time or place or in a numbered sequence other than was in fact the case, or (c) to be a copy of an original when no such original existed
  • utters any writing which he or she knows to be forged in a manner specified above

Although the offender must act with intent to defraud, he or she need not actually defraud or deceive another person to complete the crime. Whether a defendant possesses the requisite "intent to defraud or injure anyone" may be determined from the totality of his or her conduct.

For purposes of the forgery statute, a "writing" includes "printing or any other method of recording information, money, coins, tokens, stamps, seals, credit cards, badges, trademarks, electronic signatures and other symbols of value, right, privilege, or identification."

Defenses to Forgery Charges

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

Penalties and Sentences

Pennsylvania classifies basic forgery as a misdemeanor of the first degree. However, such offense will be elevated to a felony of the third degree if the writing is or purports to be a will, deed, contract, release, commercial instrument, or other document evidencing, creating, transferring, altering, terminating, or otherwise affecting legal relations. A bank check is an example of a "commercial instrument" whose forgery would result in such a felony. A forgery offense will be further elevated to a felony of the second degree if the writing is or purports to be part of an issue of money, securities, postage or revenue stamps, or other instruments issued by the government, or part of an issue of stock, bonds or other instruments representing interests in or claims against any property or enterprise.

Conviction for a misdemeanor of the first degree, the lowest of the forgery offenses, is subject to a sentence of up to 5 years in prison, and/or a fine of up to $10,000. Felonies of the third degree are punishable by a term of up to 7 years in prison, and/or a fine of up to $15,000. Finally, felonies of the second degree, the highest grade of the forgery offenses, are punishable by a term of up to 10 years in prison, and/or a fine of up to $25,000.

Pennsylvania Forgery Statute

Forgery

Pennsylvania Statutes Title 18, Chapter 41, Section 4101

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

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