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When does signing become forgery?

On Behalf of | Mar 12, 2024 | Criminal Law

Signing a document is essentially making a pledge that you understand and agree with its contents. There may be times, however, when a person may need you to sign for them, such as when they are expecting a package but cannot receive it. That is usually fine.

But what happens if a person isn’t around and they have checks or contracts waiting? You must only sign these documents when you have permission, as the consequences for forgery in Tennessee can be severe.

What counts as forgery?

In Tennessee, to forge means to “alter, make, complete, execute or authenticate any writing” to defraud or harm another. You may be found guilty of forgery if you sign a document to make it appear as if:

  • It was created or executed by a person who did not give you their permission
  • It was made at a different time, place or specific order
  • It is an original document when no such writing exists

The term “writing” encompasses everything from printed documents to other types of recordings, such as money, coins, seals, credit cards and symbols of identification. Meanwhile, “intent to defraud or harm” involves using someone else’s signature to obtain money or property or to make unauthorized decisions, such as transferring property, without the right to do so.

Often, forgery occurs by faking a signature, such as an employer’s on a check. In other cases, individuals copy their doctor’s signature to get their hands on prescription drugs.

What are the penalties for forgery?

The penalties for forgery vary depending on the value involved. If you forge a check for less than $500, you could look at 11 months and 20 days in jail, fines of up to $2,500 or both. However, if the stakes are higher, such as forging a check for over $1,000 but less than $10,000, you may face a Class D felony. You could face two to 12 years in prison and fines reaching $5,000.

No matter the amount, a conviction for forgery can have serious implications. If you are facing forgery charges, a criminal defense attorney may be pivotal to the outcome of your case. With a solid defense, dismissing forgery charges or minimizing your sentence may be possible.

Tennessee does not take forgery lightly. Before signing for someone else, it’s always crucial to seek permission first.