Forgery Laws in South Carolina

Under South Carolina law, the crime of forgery occurs when a person, with the intent to defraud another:

  • makes, forges, or counterfeits any document or financial instrument
  • uses or presents a forged document or other forged item (also referred to as “uttering” the instrument) with the knowledge that the item is forged, or
  • facilitates or assists in the making or altering of a document or instrument.

Examples of forgery under South Carolina law include:

  • signing another person’s name on a check
  • altering the amount on a check without permission
  • cashing a forged check at a bank
  • creating a fake deed or other real estate document
  • altering a financial document such as a promissory note, and
  • using a forged instrument or document to obtain or transfer property or money.

A forgery offender intends to alter a check or other document or instrument or to use a falsified document or instrument to get money or property that was not intended for the offender, or to present false facts such as the offender’s age or address. These are examples of intent to defraud.

A document or instrument includes but is not limited to checks, wills, deeds, contracts, paper money, coins, securities, stocks, and bonds.

For general information about forgery and fraud crimes, see Forgery Laws and Penalties.

Classification and Penalties

Forgery can be a felony or misdemeanor in South Carolina, depending on the monetary value involved.

If a forgery crime involves a value of $10,000 or more, the crime is a felony punishable by up to ten years in prison or a fine in an amount determined by the judge, or both.

If a forgery crime involves a value of less than $10,000, the crime is a felony punishable by up to five years in prison or a fine in an amount determined by the judge, or both.

If the forgery does not involve a dollar value, the crime is a misdemeanor punishable by up to three years in prison or a fine in an amount determined by the judge, or both. However, if the forgery involves a diploma, transcript, or GED, the offense is punishable by up to one year imprisonment or a fine up to $1,000, or both.

Defenses

A person charged with a forgery crime in South Carolina 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 actually altered and the document does not contain a false signature, for instance).

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 financial contract.

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 if the defendant was not authorized to change or create a document or present the item for payment. Likewise, forging a receipt to state a debt was paid in full is a crime even if the debt actually was paid in full.

Consult an Attorney

If you are charged with a forgery crime—even a misdemeanor—you should contact an attorney immediately. A conviction for any of South Carolina’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.

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