It may seem like signing someone’s name on a legal document or amending information on a contract are harmless activities. However, these acts may fall under the definition of forgery in Washington.
Understanding the answers to some common questions about Washington’s forgery laws is necessary to avoid facing potential charges.
What constitutes forgery?
Forgery is creating false writing with the intention of deceit. Many different acts may fall under this crime, for example:
- Signing someone else’s name on a legal contract
- Falsifying a legal ID card
- Creating a fictitious birth record
- Signing someone else’s name on a check
- Filling out a credit card application in someone else’s name
- Changing data on mortgage documents
- Altering prescriptions by changing the number of refills or dosage
The courts do not differentiate between the forgery of paper versus electronic documents when determining charges.
How does the state prove forgery?
The prosecution must show that an alleged crime meets the elements of forgery:
- The documents contain altered or falsified writing
- The defendants must knowingly alter, create or possess the fake writings
- The papers have legal significance
- The defendants intend to mislead others with their actions
If a charge does not meet one of these elements of forgery, the prosecution may have difficulty proving its case.
What are the penalties for forgery?
Washington recognizes forgery as a Class C felony. While this is the least serious in the felony classification, sentences can include fines up to $10,000 and 60 days in jail for first-time offenders. Repeated offenses may extend jail time up to 18 months.
While it may seem harmless to sign someone else’s name on a document, forgery charges under Washington’s laws may result in long-term consequences.