Understanding the Penalties of a Forgery Charge in New Jersey

Is forging a signature a crime? Absolutely — and it can result in serious consequences. All states have their own forgery laws, and New Jersey is no exception. If you’re interested in learning more about the state’s penalties for forgery and why forging a signature is a crime, here’s what you need to know.

What Is Considered a Forgery?

Before we delve into what the penalty is for forging a signature, let’s take a moment to review what New Jersey law defines as a forgery. Any act of creating or deliberately changing a document without authorization with the intent to defraud or harm someone is considered a forgery. While writing a false signature counts as a forgery, so too is altering a document’s date and other contents.

According to N.J.S.A. 2C:21-1a, a prosecutor can convict you of forgery in New Jersey if they can prove you meet at least one of the following criteria with the intention of bringing harm or fraud to another person:

  • Altering another person’s writing without receiving their authorization to do so.
  • Created, completed, executed, authenticated, issued, or transferred writing with the intention of passing it off as another person’s work.
  • Presenting any document that meets either of the two previous requirements.

It is worth noting that an individual can still be convicted for forgery if they were not the one to make the altered or fabricated document but still presented it. Additionally, using a fictional person in one’s document is also grounds for a conviction. 

The Penalty for Forging a Signature, False Documents, and More

There are many forms of paperwork that an individual can forge — real estate deeds, birth certificates, credit cards, passports, public records, and other important documentation. As such, the penalty for forging a signature in New Jersey can vary greatly depending on the type of document that was falsified or altered. Here’s a look at the three different levels of forgery penalties, from most severe to least severe.

Penalties for a Third-Degree Forgery

The third-degree forgery penalty for forging a signature can result in three to five years in prison, a fine of $500, or both. Any forgeries involving checks, money, or documents issued by the government, like personal identification and licenses, are considered third-degree. Additionally, owning a device that can forge documents — whether that be physical equipment or computer software — can also result in a third-degree conviction.

Penalties for a Fourth-Degree Forgery

Penalties of a fourth-degree forgery can be either an 18-month sentence, a $200 fine or both. These documents include those not listed as third-degree convictions and are of lesser importance. Fourth-degree forgeries can include the possession of 15 altered sales receipts or more.

Penalties for a Disorderly Person Forgery

Six months in jail, $100, or both are the penalties for a disorderly person’s forgery. They can consist of a singular forged or changed sales receipt or the underage use of an ID to purchase tobacco or alcohol products. When the latter occurs, it can result in a driver’s license suspension that can last between 6 months to two years.

Defending Against a Penalty for Forging a Signature and Other Forgery Convictions

If you’ve been wrongfully accused of committing forgery and are looking for legal representation, our Burlington County criminal lawyers can assist you. At The Law Offices of Zapicchi and Liller, we offer legal services for forgery charges and a variety of other crimes. Whether you need an NJ traffic lawyer or another criminal defense attorney, our firm will be there to offer professional legal advice.