Forgery Laws in New York

Anyone who knowingly makes or possesses a forged document that confers value or liability in order to defraud another person is guilty of the crime of forgery in New York.

This article discusses forgery law in the state of New York. For information about forgery in general, see our article Forgery Laws and Penalties.

What is Forgery in New York?

Any person who “makes, completes, or alters” a “written instrument” with the intent to use it to defraud another person commits the misdemeanor crime of forgery in New York. (N.Y. Penal Law § 170.05.)

“Written instrument”

A “written instrument” is anything, including printed material, computer data or programs, currency, tokens or anything else used to convey information or as evidence of value, right, privilege or identification that has the capacity to benefit or disadvantage some person. (N.Y. Penal Law § 170.00.)

The New York legislature purposely drafted this definition very expansively. Under its terms, a person who knowingly creates, possesses, or tries to use a bitcoin or other electronic currency in order to defraud anyone else would be guilty of forgery. In fact, New York courts have interpreted this definition of “written instrument” broadly enough to encompass cable TV boxes altered to receive channels the owner had not subscribed to or paid for!

Felony forgery

Forgery is a felony crime for certain types of counterfeit items. Forgery of the following items is felony forgery in the second degree:

  • deeds, wills, contracts, commercial instruments, credit cards, or other instruments that may evidence, create, transfer or otherwise affect a legal right, interest, obligation, or status
  • public records or documents required or authorized by law
  • official instruments issued or created by a public or governmental office or public servant
  • tokens, public transportation transfers, certificates or other items designed for use in place of money for the purchase of property or services, or
  • medical prescriptions for drugs or any device or instrument used to administer drugs.

(N.Y. Penal Law § 170.10.)

Forgery of the following items is felony forgery in the first degree:

  • currency, stamps, securities, or other valuable instruments issued by the government, or
  • stocks, bonds, or other instruments representing an interest in or claim against a corporation or other organization.

(N.Y. Penal Law § 170.15.)

How is Forgery Punished in New York?

The possible penalty for forgery in New York depends upon the degree of forgery of which the defendant is convicted.

First degree felony forgery

Forgery in the first degree is a Class C felony crime in New York. A person convicted of first degree forgery faces a prison sentence not to exceed 15 years, a fine not to exceed the higher of $5,000 or double the defendant’s gain in the forgery, or both prison and fine. (N.Y. Penal Law § § 170.15, 70.00, 80.00.)

Second degree felony forgery

Forgery in the second degree is a Class D felony crime in New York. A person convicted of second degree forgery faces a prison sentence not to exceed seven years, a fine not to exceed the higher of $5,000 or double the defendant’s gain in the forgery, or both prison and fine. (N.Y. Penal Law § § 170.10, 70.00, 80.00.)

Third degree misdemeanor forgery

Forgery in the third degree is a Class A misdemeanor crime in New York. A person convicted of third degree forgery faces a sentence not to exceed one year, a fine not to exceed $1,000, or both. (N.Y. Penal Law § § 170.05, 70.15, 80.05.)

See a Lawyer

Forgery is a serious crime in New York and conviction can lead to prison time. If you have been charged with forgery or have questions about the crime, talk to an attorney in your area who has experience in criminal defense law.

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