In Texas, the crime of forgery consists of making, altering, or using any falsified written item with the intent to defraud or harm another. Written items include any document but also coins, badges, credit cards and seals.
Under Texas law, to forge means to:
Examples of forgery include:
Intent to defraud or injure another means intending to get money or property that was not intended for the offender, or to take legal action that the offender is not authorized to do, such as transferring property. Injury refers to a loss of money or other legal or financial injury. For general information about forgery and fraud crimes, see Forgery Laws and Penalties.
Forgery crimes can be felonies or misdemeanors in Texas, depending on the item involved and whether the victim is an elderly person. The classifications and possible penalties are listed below.
State jail felony. Forgery is a state jail felony if the writing is a will, deed, mortgage, security instrument or agreement, check, credit card, contract, release, or authorization to for payment of money or to debit a financial account. A state jail felony is punishable by 18 months to 2 years in jail and a fine up to $10,000.
Felony of the third degree. Forgery is a third degree felony if the instrument is paper money, stocks or bonds, postage or revenue stamps, a government record, or an item issued by a state or national government. A felony of the third degree is punishable by two to ten years in prison and a fine up to $10,000.
Misdemeanor forgery. Forgery crimes that involve any instrument not listed under the two felony charges are Class A misdemeanors. Class A misdemeanors are punishable by up to one year in jail or a fine up to $4,000, or both.
If the victim is an elderly person, the offense is automatically increased to the next higher category. For example, if an offender commits a state jail felony forgery against an elderly person, he will be charged with a third degree felony rather than a state jail felony.
A person charged with a forgery crime in Texas can raise any general defense available in a criminal case, such as mistaken identity—not being the person who committed the crime—or arguing 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.
If you are charged with a forgery crime—even a misdemeanor—you should contact an attorney immediately. A conviction for any Texas forgery crime can become 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.