Uttering a Forged Instrument
Uttering a forged instrument is when you intentionally create a forged document or financial instrument and circulate it into the public. It can be a promissory note, check, bill, or draft or any other formal document that would lead to the payment of money.
Does the forged instrument have to go through to be charged?
No. If you utter a forged instrument, and it is immediately caught and no money exchanges hands, you can still be charged. The charge is for uttering a forged instrument not obtaining money by uttering a forged instrument.
Is uttering a forged instrument a felony or misdemeanor?
Uttering a forged instrument can be either a felony or misdemeanor, and is dependent on the value of the item. If the value of the instrument is under $1,000, it is a misdemeanor. If the value of the instrument is over $1,000 it is a felony.
What is the punishment for uttering a forged instrument?
The range of punishment for a charge of uttering a forged instrument depends on how much the forged instrument is valued at.
$0-$999: the crime is a misdemeanor forgery punishable by up to a year in the county jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000.
$1,000-$2,499: the crime is treated as felony forgery and carries up to two years in the Department of Corrections or a county jail term of up to a year and/or a fine of up to $1,000.
$2,500-$14,999: the crime is treated as felony forgery and carries up to five years in the Department of Corrections or up to a year in the county jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000.
$15,000 or more: the crime is treated as felony forgery punishable by up to eight years in the Department of Corrections and/or a fine of up to $1,000.
How is the value determined?
Most forged instruments will include a dollar amount. For example, a promissory note will always include the dollar amount on the document. The prosecution will go by this amount when charging the crime, and the court will utilize this amount when determining the maximum punishment.
One thing to be mindful of is the ability to aggregate. If you utter multiple forged instruments, the prosecution can add the total in all of the forged instruments to charge you with a higher crime. For example, if you utter 4 forged checks all worth $900, you will not be charged with 4 misdemeanor forged instrument charges. Instead you will be charged with a single count of felony uttering a forged instrument, and it will carry up to 5 years in jail.
Is probation a possibility with this charge?
Yes. Depending on your criminal history, probation will most likely be offered for a first time offense. The listed punishments above are the maximum punishment, and are not typically what is offered for a plea deal.
Is restitution likely?
Yes. It would be very rare for the prosecutor to make a plea bargain that didn’t include restitution. Additionally, if you choose to blind plead to a judge, the judge will almost always grant restitution to the victim. If you choose to plead, regardless of what type of plea you enter, you can almost guarantee restitution will be included.
If I have to pay restitution on a charge for uttering a forged instrument, do I have to pay it right away?
No. Normally a plea deal will give you a date you must pay the restitution by. The DA probation office will provide you a restitution “schedule.” Which is a breakdown of when to make your payments. If you miss a payment on that restitution schedule, that is considered a violation of your probation and could lead to jail time. Typically if you miss a payment, they do not immediately violate your probation. You will be given an opportunity to get back on track and make your payments.
The Bottom Line
Uttering a forged instrument is simply creating a fake document that will lead to you obtaining money fraudulently. The punishment for uttering a forged instrument is dependent on the value of the document. If you utter multiple forged instruments the total value of all of the instruments will be used to determine your charge and punishment. If you plead on a charge of uttering a forged instrument you will almost certainly be required to pay restitution in addition to the rest of your punishment.