In general, forgery is the crime of creating or altering a document or other instrument without authorization to do so and in order to defraud another person. This article discusses New Jersey’s forgery laws. For information about forgery in general, see our article Forgery Laws and Penalties.
A person commits forgery in New Jersey when she:
For the crime to be complete, the person doing any of the above acts must intend to defraud or injure another, or know that she is engaged in a fraud scheme that will cause injury to another (for example, acting as part of a forgery conspiracy). (N.J. Stat. Ann. §2C:21-1.)
The term “writing” as used in the New Jersey forgery law means “printing or any other method of recording information,” as well as money, coins, stamps, seals, credit cards, badges, trademarks, and any other documents or devices that confer value, privilege, or identification. (N.J. Stat. Ann. §2C:21-1.) For purposes of the forgery laws, “writing” also includes corporate securities (stocks or bonds), retail sales receipts, universal product code (“UPC”) labels, and checks. A copy of a legitimate check or other document that has been altered or is used for other than its authorized purpose or by an authorized person is also a “writing” under the forgery law.
Unlike its meaning in casual usage, “utters” has a technical meaning in the law. As used in the New Jersey forgery statute, “utters” means to offer a forged writing or other instrument with words or conduct intended to indicate that it is genuine. By merely “uttering” a forged document (for example, swearing to or affirming that it is authentic), a person commits forgery in New Jersey even if no other person was defrauded or injured. (State v. Gledhill.)
Possessing or making any device or equipment (including computer software) designed or adapted in order to forge written documents or other instruments constitutes the crime of possession of a forgery device under New Jersey law. (N.J. Stat. Ann. §2C:21-1.)
Anyone who possesses one or more forged or altered sales receipts, UPC labels, or checks for the purpose of defrauding a retail merchant is guilty of a “disorderly person” crime in New Jersey. (N.J. Stat. Ann. §2C:21-2.4.) And, possession of 15 or more forged receipts, labels, or checks is a felony.
Forgery and possession of a forgery device are felonies in New Jersey; the degree of the felony determines the possible penalty.
Forgery of the following items is a third degree felony in New Jersey (N.J. Stat. Ann. §21C:21-1):
Possession of a forgery device is also a third degree felony in New Jersey. A person convicted of a third degree felony in New Jersey faces a possible sentence of between three and five years in prison, a fine of not less than $500, or both. (N.J. Stat. Ann. § §2C:43-6, 2C:18-6.)
For forgery of items other than those listed above under third degree forgery and for possession of 15 or more forged or altered sales receipts or UPC labels, forgery is a fourth degree felony in New Jersey. A person convicted of a fourth degree felony in New Jersey faces a possible sentence of not more than 18 months in prison, a fine of not less than $200, or both. (N.J. Stat. Ann. § §2C:43-6, 2C:18-6.)
Possession of a single forged or altered sales receipt or UPC label is a “disorderly person” crime (essentially a misdemeanor). A person convicted of a disorderly person crime faces a possible sentence of not more than 6 months in prison, a fine of not less than $100, or both. (N.J. Stat. Ann. § §2C:43-6, 2C:18-6.)
Forgery is a serious crime. If you have been charged with forgery or a related offense, or if you have questions about the crime, talk to a lawyer with experience in criminal defense in your area.