Forgery Laws in Missouri

Forgery is a serious crime in the state of Missouri. If you are convicted of a forgery crime in Missouri, you face significant potential penalties.

If you'd like to learn more about forgery crimes in general, read Forgery Laws and Penalties.

Forgery in Missouri

The term "forgery" applies to a wide range of activity. In general, a person commits an act of forgery when that person, with the intent to defraud, uses, possesses, or possesses with the intent to use a forged or altered instrument. (The intent to defraud is when a person tries to deceive, trick, or fool someone.)

So, a person who tries to cash a forged check commits a forgery offense, as does someone who signs someone else's name to a check.

In Missouri, people commit the crime of forgery when they, with the intent to defraud,

  • create, complete, alter, or authenticate a document to make it appear as if the document was made be someone else, made in another time or place, or made in a numbered sequence other than it actually was
  • erase, destroy, or obliterate any writing
  • create or alter anything that isn't a writing to make it appear genuine, or
  • use, possess, or transfer as a genuinely made item known to be forged.

Forgery in Missouri is a Class C felony offense.

(Missouri Revises Statutes § 570.090)

Possession of a Forged Instrument

It's also a crime to possess any machine or device used to make a forged instrument. Anyone who possesses such an instrument with the intent to use it to commit a forgery commits the crime of possession of a forgery instrument, a Class C felony offense.

(Missouri Revises Statutes § 570.100)

Federal Forgery Crimes

In addition to being charged with a violation of state law, someone committing a forgery crime in Missouri could also face federal forgery charges. Federal prosecutors are more likely to file federal fraud charges against a person if the criminal activity involves actions in multiple states, frauds committed against the federal government, or frauds involving forged or fraudulently used federal documents.

Possible Legal Defenses

Someone charged with a forgery crime might be able to use one or more legal defenses. The circumstances of the case will determine what defenses are available, though the following are sometimes successfully used to defend against forgery charges.

  • Consent. You don't commit a forgery crime if you have the consent of person whose signature or identity you use. For example, if your spouse grants you permission to sign his or her name on a check, you haven't committid a forgery crime if you do so.
  • Lack of intent. You cannot accidentally commit a forgery. For example, if your friend agrees to pay back a debt she owes you by using a forged check, you do not commit a forgery crime if you innocently try to cash it later. Though the instrument is a forgery, you do not commit a crime when you try to deposit it because you had no intent to use the instrument to defraud the bank.

Potential Penalties

Forgery is a serious crime in Missouri. People convicted of a forgery crime face a wide range of penalties, depending in the circumstances of the case.

Both possession of a forgery instrument and forgery are Class C felony offenses. A conviction for either crime comes with a maximum penalty of up to $5,000 in fines and up to seven years in prison.

To learn more about criminal penalties in Missouri, read Missouri Felony Crimes by Class and Sentence, and Missouri Misdemeanor Crimes by Class and Sentence.

Talk to a Lawyer Today

Facing a forgery charge is a serious situation that requires the advice and guidance of an experienced criminal defense lawyer. If you've been charged with a forgery offense in Missouri, or have been questioned by investigators, you need an attorney immediately. Only local attorneys who have experience in area criminal courts can give you advice and ensure that you protect your rights at all stages of the criminal justice process.

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