Forgery Laws in Indiana

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. (Ind. Code Ann. § § 35-43-5-1, 35-43-5-2.) For example, a person who makes a contact and signs it in someone else's name and then tries to pass the contract off as authentic could be convicted of counterfeiting.

Forgery

Forgery is a more serious crime than counterfeiting in Indiana. A person commits forgery by making, uttering, or possessing a falsified written instrument (one that purports to have been made by someone else, at a different time, with different provisions, or that has been made without permission) with the intent to defraud. (Ind. Code Ann. § § 35-43-5-1, 35-43-5-2.) 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 making a stolen check out to him or herself and signing the account holder’s name. When a person uses a stolen credit card to make a purchase and signs the cardholder’s name to complete the transaction, that is also forgery.

Identification Cards

Using false information to obtain an identification card is also a crime in Indiana. It is also a crime, called application fraud, to:

  • use a false or fictitious name to apply for a driver’s license
  • intentionally make a false statement or conceal a fact to apply for a driver’s license, or
  • use false information or make a false statement to apply for a state identification card.

(Ind. Code Ann. § 35-43-5-2.) 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.

Punishment

Counterfeiting is a Class D felony. Class D felonies are “wobblers,” crimes that can be either a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on how the crime is charged and, sometimes, how the judge decides to treat a conviction. Class D felonies are punishable by at little as six months in jail (a misdemeanor sentence) or as much as three years in prison (a felony sentence), as well as a fine of up to $10,000.

Forgery is a Class C felony, which can result in two to eight years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to $10,000. Application fraud is also a Class D felony. For more information on sentencing, see Indiana Misdemeanor Crimes by Class and Sentences and Indiana Felony Crimes by Class and Sentences.

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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