Forgery and Uttering are Serious Crimes in Virginia

Forgery and uttering are felony offenses in Fairfax County and Northern Virginia, as they are elsewhere in the Commonwealth of Virginia. This is true regardless of the amount or value of the forgery. Given the seriousness of forging and uttering, anyone charged with these crimes needs to consult with a lawyer who has not only previously handled forgery and uttering cases, but also has the judgment, skill, and reputation to obtain the best possible resolution of the matter.

What is Forgery in Virginia?

Forgery (Va. Code 18.2-172) involves the false making or altering of writing. To be a forgery, a writing must be falsely made, or an existing writing must be falsely and materially altered. An alteration that is a forgery may be done by adding to, substituting in, or deleting from the original document. It's also forgery to enter the amount in words and/or figures on a check signed in blank by the owner of the account when the person entering the information knows the check is stolen. However, any writing or alteration done by someone who has authority to do so isn't a forgery.

To be convicted of forgery, the government must prove that the person making the alteration had the intent to defraud. In other words, by way of example, a wife that signs a check for her husband so that she can deposit the check in their account for their use has not committed forgery because she had no intent to defraud anyone.

What is Uttering in Virginia?

Uttering (Va. Code 18.2-172) is a separate and distinct offense from forgery. While the crime of forgery is complete when the accused has made or altered the writing with the intent to defraud, the crime of uttering occurs when the accused uses or attempts to use a forged writing.

There isn't a requirement that the person succeed in passing the forged instrument. For instance, attempting to pass a check that is forged would constitute uttering. However, to be convicted of uttering, the prosecution must prove the person passing the forged writing knew the writing was forged.

Penalties for Forging and Uttering in Virginia

Forging and uttering are both Class 5 felony offenses in Virginia. A Class 5 felony is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $2,500 fine. However, it's important to note that when a person forges a writing and attempts to use that writing, he or she has committed two offenses: forging and uttering. Therefore, each offense is punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Accordingly, the maximum time such a person would face is 20 years in jail.

People often want to know, "What is the average jail time a person receives for a conviction of forging or uttering?" The average jail time varies and should be discussed with your attorney.

Other Forging Offenses in Virginia

In addition to forging and uttering as defined in Va. Code 18.2-172, the following are also types of forgery crimes in Virginia:

  • Forging Coin or Bank Notes & Counterfeiting: Va. Code 18.2-170 criminalizes forging and counterfeiting coins, notes, and bills. Counterfeiting involves the making of a coin or note that has the appearance of a true coin or currency. A person who commits any part of the act that results in the production of a fake coin or currency has violated the law. Like forgery and uttering, passing false or fake currency constitutes the separate crime of uttering under Va. Code 18.2-170. However, the Commonwealth must prove the counterfeit money was passed for value, and the person passing it knew it was counterfeit.

Merely possessing counterfeit money is also a separate criminal offense. Under Va. Code 18.2-173 possessing counterfeit money is a Class 6 felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison if the person possessed 10 or more pieces of counterfeit money. However, to secure a conviction, the prosecution must not only prove possession of counterfeit money, but also prove the person possessing it knew the money was fake and intended to pass it as true.  However, knowledge can be proven by circumstantial evidence. 

  • Forging Public Records: Forging a Public Record (Va. Code 18.2-168) is likely the most serious of all forging and uttering offenses. Forging a Public Record is a Class 4 felony, which is punishable by a minimum term of imprisonment of two years and a maximum of 10 years, and a fine of up to $100,000. This offense is similar in many respects to the forgery offense described above—however, this offense only applies to a list of public records (found in 42.1-77).

This offense most often arises when someone signs a false name to a summons for a traffic ticket or signs a fingerprint card under a false name. Signing several documents constitutes several separate and distinct felony offenses that all can be charged. Like forgery in general, either alteration of an existing public record or false creation of a new public record can be forgery. This charge often presents significant immigration problems for those who are not citizens.

If you've been arrested for a forgery or uttering offense in Fairfax County, Prince William County, Arlington County, Loudoun County, Alexandria, or elsewhere in Northern Virginia, contact Manikas Law, LLC by phone or email to schedule an appointment with an experienced criminal defense lawyer.