There are several statutes in New Jersey that a person could run afoul of should he/she come into possession of, use, or make a false document. This can include anything from fake IDs to forged business receipts to counterfeit money. The exact crime that a person is charged with and the resulting penalties will depend on many factors. Regardless, it is critical that a person who finds themselves in such a situation understand the possible consequences and seek help from an expert attorney.
What Are False/Forged Documents and Writing?
A forged document can include any piece of paper or other object, such as a driver’s license, that serves an official purpose. Commonly forged or falsified documents include birth certificates, IDs, vehicle registrations or inspection stickers, wills, deeds, and more. The term “writing” seems like it would be redundant to documents, but it is not; it refers to items of particular value such as money, credit cards, badges, access devices and other symbols of value including sales receipts, Universal Product Code (UPC) labels, and checks.
Crimes Involving False or Forged Documents
- Falsifying Business Records in New Jersey(N.J.S.A. 2C:21-4). This covers any kind of business receipts, records, documentation, and more, which are knowingly altered, forged, destroyed or omitted for the purpose of defrauding or injuring another. It can be charged as a fourth- or third-degree crime and result in up to five years in prison.
- Forgery (N.J.S.A. 2C:21-1 & 2C:21-2). It is unlawful to create or alter a document with the purpose of defrauding another. It is most often charged as a third- or fourth-degree felony but can be charged as a disorderly persons offense in some circumstances. The maximum possible sentence is 5 years in prison per count.
- Counterfeiting (N.J.S.A. 2C:21-32). Similar to forgery, the crime alleges that one make a copy of something in an attempt to pass it off as an original. This can include anything from currency to retail goods (e.g. knock-off purses). Counterfeiting can be charged as a fourth-, third-, or second-degree crime, depending on the number of items and/or the estimated value of them. A conviction can lead to up to 10 years in prison.
- Displaying or Possession of a Forged Document (N.J.S.A. 2C:21-2.1c&d). A person can be charged with one of these crimes for having a fake ID, among other things. Possessing a fake ID is a fourth-degree crime with a sentence of up to 18 months. Displaying—meaning showing or using the ID so as to fool someone—is a third-degree crime with a sentence of up to 5 years. The exception is if the person intended to use a fake ID to purchase alcohol or tobacco; this is generally considered a less serious act and is charged as a disorderly persons offense.
- Making Fake IDs (N.J.S.A. 2C:21-17.3a). The formal name for this law is Trafficking in personal identifying information. In most cases, this is a fourth-degree crime and can result in up to 18 months in prison, but in serious cases, it can be charged as a second-degree crime and carry a sentence of up to 10 years.
Defenses to False/Forged Document Crimes in New Jersey
The exact defense one would need depends on both the crime(s) one is charged with and the facts surrounding the case, including how evidence was gathered. Some valid defenses might include demonstrating that a person had permission to copy something. In some cases, it can be enough to show that the person lacked intent to defraud. It is also possible to prove that the alleged acts are a mistake or that they were not committed by the defendant.
Why Hire an Attorney for False Document Crimes in NJ?
No matter what the circumstances, a person charged with any of the above crimes must hire a professional attorney to represent him/her in court. An attorney will be able to evaluate the case so as to determine the most effective way to protect the client’s rights. The right attorney can advise the client on how to respond to police and/or prosecutor questions. He/she can also ensure that unlawfully gathered evidence is not used against the client in court.
Who Should I Contact?
If you or someone you love has been accused of forgery, counterfeiting, making or possessing fake IDs, or any other fraud-related crime in New Jersey, contact an attorney for help right away. The lawyers at Rosenblum Law are skilled criminal defense attorneys with experience helping people in similar situations. Email Rosenblum Law or call 888-815-3649 today for a free consultation about your case.