Forgery – creating, copying, or possessing documents that have been altered in some meaningful way – is a type of fraud and it is illegal in Arkansas and elsewhere. One common type of forgery is signing a check in another person’s name without permission. For more general information on forgery and fraud crimes, see Forgery Laws and Penalties, Laws on Fraud, and Counterfeiting Laws and Penalties.
A person commits forgery in Arkansas by making, completing, altering, copying, possessing, or uttering (offering as true) a written instrument. A written instrument is any document or money, stamp, seal, trademark, receipt, UPC label, or symbol of identification or value. The written instrument must purport to be the act of:
In order to be convicted of forgery, the defendant must have the intent to defraud (to deceive or trick). In most forgery cases, the defendant commits the forgery with the intent to steal money or something else of value, or better his or her own position.
In Arkansas, the punishment for forgery depends on the nature of the written instrument. A person commits first degree forgery when the written instrument is money, a security (such as a stock or bond), a postage stamp, or any other document of value issued by the government. A person commits second degree forgery when the written instrument is a deed, will, contract, check, commercial instrument, credit card, a public record, or any document that creates affects a legal right or status. (Ark. Code § § 5-37-101, 5-37-201.)
Forgery in the first degree is a Class B felony. The sentence for a Class B felony is five to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000. Forgery in the second degree is a Class C felony, punishable by three to ten years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. For more information on sentencing, see Arkansas Misdemeanor Crimes by Class and Sentences and Arkansas Felony Crimes by Class and Sentences.
Any criminal conviction, including a conviction for forgery, can have very significant and lasting consequences. In addition to time in prison and a hefty fine, a forgery conviction can result in a criminal record and a record can make it hard to obtain a job, qualify for a professional license, or even rent an apartment. If you are charged with a crime, your first priority should be to talk to an Arkansas criminal defense attorney. An attorney can answer your questions, explain what to expect in court based on the charges and the assigned judge and prosecutor, and help you obtain the best possible outcome in your case.