Georgia’s forgery laws prohibit making or possessing documents that purport to be something they are not. For example, a check that bears the signature of the account holder but has not, in fact, been signed by the account holder has been forged. Georgia law punishes some forgeries more severely than others, but even the least serious forgery crimes can result in significant criminal penalties. If you would like more general information on forgery and fraud crimes, see Forgery Laws and Penalties, Laws on Fraud, and Counterfeiting Laws and Penalties.
Under Georgia law, forgery is classified as first, second, third, or fourth degree forgery. Third and fourth degree forgery deal with checks, while first and second degree forgery deal with other documents. First degree forgery is the most serious offense.
In order to be convicted of any kind of forgery in Georgia, the defendant must act with the intent to defraud. People have the intent to defraud when they intend to deceive, trick, or injure others, or better their own position through forgery. For example, a person who makes fake admission badges to a major golf tournament intending to sell the badges as authentic to unsuspecting fans has the intent to defraud. A person who makes a fake badge as a gag joke for a friend who loves golf intends to entertain, not defraud, and has not committed a crime.
A person commits the crime of second degree forgery by making, altering, or possessing any forged writing (other than a check). “A writing” is broadly defined under Georgia’s forgery law and includes both written and printed documents and “money, coins, tokens, stamps, seals, credit cards, badges, trademarks,” and other symbols of value or identification, such as signatures and UPC labels. A forged writing is one that that purports to have been made:
A person commits the crime of first degree forgery by committing second degree forgery and also “uttering or delivering” (offering or using) the writing. For example, a person who prints counterfeit currency and uses it to buy goods at a store could be convicted of first degree forgery. In contrast, a person who merely helps print counterfeit money, but never tries to use it may only be convicted of second degree forgery.
Third degree forgery is committed by making, altering, possessing, or uttering (trying to pass off as legitimate) a forged check in the amount of $1,5000 or more; or by possessing ten or more blank forged checks. A person commits fourth degree forgery by making, altering, possessing, or uttering a forged check for less than $1,5000 or by possessing fewer than ten blank forged checks.
(Ga. Code Ann. § 16-9-1.)
Forgery in the first degree is punishable by one to 15 years’ imprisonment. Second and third degree forgery are punishable by one to five years in prison. Fourth degree forgery is a misdemeanor, but a person who is convicted of fourth degree forgery for the third (or subsequent) time must be sentenced to one to five years in prison. (Ga. Code Ann. § 16-9-2.) Misdemeanors are punishable by a fine of up to $1,000, up to 12 months in county jail, both a fine and time in county jail, or up to 12 months in a state diversion center. For more information on sentencing, see Georgia Misdemeanor Crimes by Class and Sentences and Georgia Felony Crimes by Class and Sentences.
A criminal conviction in Georgia can result in time in prison, jail, or a state diversion center, a fine, and a serious criminal record, which can prevent you from holding certain jobs. Many criminal convictions, especially for fraud crimes like forgery, also have to be reported to licensing boards, and may make it difficult to pass a background check or obtain a job. Your best chance of obtaining a favorable sentence in court is to talk to an experienced criminal defense attorney about the charges. An attorney can explain the law, answer your questions, tell you how your case is likely to fare, and help you successfully navigate the criminal justice system.