Florida has extensive laws against forgery and counterfeiting – creating or possessing documents that have been altered in some significant way. Most forgery crimes in Florida are punishable by time in prison. For more general information on forgery and fraud crimes, see Forgery Laws and Penalties, Laws on Fraud, and Counterfeiting Laws and Penalties.
In Florida, a person commits the crime of forgery by making, altering, or falsifying a public record, legal document, insurance policy, bank bill, check, promissory note, receipt, currency, financial document, transit ticket, or other document that has value (such as a ticket to an event) with the intent to injure or defraud any person. A person who intends to deceive, trick, or economically harm others has the intent to defraud or injure. For example, a lawyer who makes a fake court order to show to his client so that the client will not sue for malpractice has committed forgery. A person also commits the crime of forgery in Florida by possessing ten or more forged checks with the intent to use the checks. (Fla. Stat. § § 831.01, 831.04, 831.07, 831.08.)
It is also a crime in Florida to “utter” (offer as true) any forged document. (Fla. Stat. § § 831.02, 831.09.) The defendant must have the intent to defraud and must know that the document has been forged. For example, a person who tries to use a forged check at Target could be convicted of uttering, even if the clerk does not accept the check.
Florida law also prohibits the manufacture, sale, and possession of counterfeit labels. For example, a person who makes fake designer labels to affix to handbags sold by street vendors could be convicted of manufacturing counterfeit labels. The street vendor who sells the bags, knowing that the labels are counterfeit, could also be convicted of a crime. Possession of counterfeit labels is criminal onlyif the defendant intends to distribute the labels. This means that the shopper who buys such a bag, intending to keep if for herself, would likely escape criminal charges.
This offense is punished more severely if the goods involved have a retail value of more than $2,500 or if a person is injured or killed as a result of the counterfeit labels. For example, counterfeit labels attached to food or medicine that result in injury or sickness could lead to very serious criminal charges. (Fla. Stat. § § 831.03, 831.031, 831.032.)
Forgery is a felony of the third degree, as is uttering a forged instrument. Third degree felonies are punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000. Depending on the circumstances, the sale, possession, or manufacturing of counterfeit labels may be punishable by as little as up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000; or as much as up to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. Second and subsequent convictions are punished more severely. Goods with counterfeit labels may be seized by the state without compensation to the owners (this is called forfeiture) and may be destroyed. (Fla. Stat. § 831.033.) For more information on sentencing, see Florida Misdemeanor Crimes by Class and Sentences and Florida Felony Crimes by Class and Sentences. Forfeiting is explained in Forfeiting Property in a Federal Criminal Case.
All criminal convictions can have severe consequences that can continue long after a defendant is released from jail or prison or has paid a fine. If you are charged with or accused of forgery or any other crime, talking to a Florida criminal defense attorney about your case is the best way to learn about the possible consequences of a criminal conviction and what to expect in court. An attorney can help you navigate the criminal justice system, protect your rights, and obtain the best outcome possible under the circumstances.