In Ohio, the crime of forgery consists of any of the following actions, when done with the purpose or intent to commit fraud:
Signing another person’s name on a check and then cashing the check at a bank both are forgery crimes in Ohio. The fraudulent purpose is obtaining money that does not belong to the offender or that was not intended for the offender. Using or presenting a forged document also is known as and referred to as “uttering” the document.
For general information about forgery and fraud crimes, see Forgery Laws and Penalties.
Forging identification cards or selling or distributing false identification cards is a misdemeanor of the first degree in Ohio. Any other forgery crime is a felony in the fifth degree except in the circumstances listed below.
If property or services are involved in a forgery crime (the offense involves forged real estate documents and fraudulent sale of a piece of land) or the victim suffers a loss (such as loss of money from a bank account because of forged checks) and the value of the property, services or loss is $7,500 or more but less than $150,000:
If the value of the property, services or loss is $150,000 or more:
The possible sentences for forgery crimes in Ohio are as follows:
Felony of the fifth degree: six to twelve months in prison or a fine up to $2,500, or both.
A felony of the fourth degree: six to eighteen months in prison or a fine up to $5,000, or both.
A felony of the third degree: nine months to five years in prison or a fine up to $10,000, or both.
A felony in the second degree: two to eight years in prison or a fine up to $15,000, or both.
The misdemeanor crime of forging identification cards or selling or distributing false identification cards is punishable by up to 180 days in jail for a first offense. For a second offense, the court also is required to impose a fine of at least $250.
A person charged with a forgery crime in Ohio can raise any general defense available in a criminal case such as mistaken identity—not being the person who committed the crime—or the defense that the crime did not occur (the signature on a document used in a financial transaction was not altered in any way).
A person charged with forgery also can raise the specific defense that he was authorized or believed in good faith that he was authorized to sign or alter a document, such as a check or other document.
The fact that the defendant was entitled to collect money from the victim or believed he was so entitled is not a defense to forgery. Likewise, forging a receipt to state a debt was paid in full is a crime even if the debt actually was paid in full.
If you are charged with a forgery crime—even a misdemeanor—you should contact an attorney immediately. A conviction for any of Ohio’s forgery crimes becomes part of your permanent criminal record whether the conviction is a felony or misdemeanor. A criminal conviction can hurt you when you are looking for a job or applying to rent a house or apartment. A convicted felon also loses the right to vote and carry firearms and can lose certain professional licenses.
An experienced attorney can determine whether you have any grounds for dismissal of the charges against you, explore plea options or represent you at trial. Only someone familiar with the local criminal court system and cases like yours will know how good your chances are for a favorable outcome in court or at the negotiating table. A knowledgeable attorney will take all of this into consideration, assist you in making decisions about your case, and protect your rights.