Counterfeiting and Forgery Laws in Indiana

Felony penalties apply to the crimes of counterfeiting, forgery, and application fraud.

Indiana has laws against forgery and counterfeiting, which are both types of fraud involving written documents that have been altered in some meaningful way. It is also a crime in Indiana to use false information to apply for a state identification card or driver's license. For more general information on forgery and fraud crimes, see Forgery Laws and Penalties, Laws on Fraud, and Counterfeiting Laws and Penalties.

Counterfeiting

Oftentimes, counterfeiting and forgery are lumped together as one crime. In Indiana, counterfeiting is a separate, albeit related, offense. A person commits the offense of counterfeiting by making or uttering (offering as payment or offering as true) a written instrument that purports to have been made:

  • by another person
  • at another time
  • with different provisions, or
  • with the permission of someone who did not give permission.

A written instrument is any written document or a stamp, seal, token, label, or symbol of value or identification. A person also commits counterfeiting by possessing more than one falsified written instrument knowing that the document is fake. For example, a person who makes a contract and signs it in someone else's name and then tries to pass the contract off as authentic could be convicted of counterfeiting.

(Ind. Code §§ 35-43-5-1, 35-43-5-2 (2020).)

Forgery

A person commits forgery by making, uttering, or possessing a falsified or counterfeited written instrument with the intent to defraud.

People have the intent to defraud when they intend to deceive others for their benefit or to the detriment of others. For example, a person commits the crime of forgery by using a stolen credit card to make a purchase and signing the cardholder's name to complete the transaction.

(Ind. Code §§ 35-43-5-1, 35-43-5-2 (2020).)

Identification Cards

Using false information to obtain an identification card is also a crime in Indiana. Called application fraud, the following intentional acts are prohibited:

  • using a false or fictitious name or address to apply for a driver's license, or
  • making a false statement or concealing a fact when applying for a driver's license.

For example, a teenage girl who uses her older sister's birth certificate to obtain a state identification card so that she can buy alcohol has committed application fraud. (Ind. Code § 35-43-5-2 (2020).)

Punishment

Counterfeiting, forgery, and application fraud are Level 6 felonies. Level 6 felonies are "wobblers," meaning they can be sentenced as either a Level 6 felony or a Class A misdemeanor. The judge can impose the misdemeanor penalty only if the offender has no past wobbler or felony convictions. Level 6 felonies are punishable by six to 30 months' incarceration, as well as a fine of up to $10,000. A person convicted of a Class A misdemeanor faces up to a year in jail and a $5,000 fine.

(Ind. Code §§ 35-50-2-7; 35-50-3-2 (2020).)

Obtaining Legal Assistance

Any criminal conviction—including a criminal conviction for counterfeiting, forgery, application fraud, or any other kind of fraud—can have serious consequences, including time in prison, a fine, and a criminal record. Criminal records can make life difficult for years to come, and a criminal conviction for a fraud crime can make it hard to obtain a job or qualify for a professional license. If you are charged with or accused of a crime, you should talk to an Indiana criminal defense attorney. An experienced attorney can help you protect your rights and successfully navigate the criminal justice system.

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