Forgery is a felony in Wisconsin. Contact our top criminal defense attorneys for help: (414) 270-0202
Forgery is a relatively simple crime with significant consequences. Simply modifying or changing the wrong document results in felony-level charges and the possibility of a prison sentence. Specifically, forgery is a Class H felony. A Class H felony carries a maximum sentence of 6 years in prison (3 years initial confinement and 3 years extended supervision) and $10,000.00 in fines. Firing up Photoshop gets serious quickly.
Van Severen Law Office, S.C. stands prepared to defend individuals accused of mid-level felonies such as forgery. We recognize that frequently these cases involve police search warrants, receipt trails, security footage, and other pieces of evidence all linked together in a way attempting to show guilt. Whether this is a complex charge, as we just described, or a straightforward case, we can help.
Contact us immediately at (414) 270-0202 to begin speaking with one of our criminal defense lawyers and to set up a free initial consultation.
What is forgery? Section 943.38(1) of the Wisconsin Statutes:
Section 943.38(1) of the Wisconsin Statutes prohibits forgery. Another subsection within 943.38 deals with a crime called uttering a forgery, which is a slightly different offense. In order for the state to successfully prosecute a forgery case, they must satisfy the statute:
(1) Whoever with intent to defraud falsely makes or alters a writing or object of any of the following kinds so that it purports to have been made by another, or at another time, or with different provisions, or by authority of one who did not give such authority, is guilty of a Class H felony:
(a) A writing or object whereby legal rights or obligations are created, terminated or transferred, or any writing commonly relied upon in business or commercial transactions as evidence of debt or property rights; or
(b) A public record or a certified or authenticated copy thereof; or
(c) An official authentication or certification of a copy of a public record; or
(d) An official return or certificate entitled to be received as evidence of its contents.
The statute is relatively clear: to qualify, the defendant must alter or create a writing or object listed in subs (a) – (d). That creation or alteration includes something that indicates it was made by someone other than the defendant, or was created at a different time than originally listed, changes the provisions of another writing, or is created by someone who falsely claims authority of another. The statute uses a lot of words but is still relatively straightforward when broken down. Next, we’ll talk about the jury instructions, which help break the offense down even further.
Wisconsin Criminal Jury Instruction 1491
Wisconsin Criminal Jury Instructions help all of us (judges, prosecutors, defendants, defense attorneys, and others) understand criminal charges. Jury instructions break crimes down into small parts, called elements. Importantly, in order to sustain a conviction against the defendant, the government must prove each element beyond a reasonable doubt.
Criminal Jury Instruction 1491 describes “forgery (by making or altering a check)” and should be changed when a check is not the instrument being forged. The elements are:
Firstly, the document in this case was a writing by which legal rights or obligations are created or transferred.
This specific instruction focuses on checks. A bank check is a writing that creates legal rights or obligations.
Secondly, the defendant falsely made or altered the check, or an endorsement on the check.
The check or endorsement on the check must have been falsely made or altered to appear to have been made by another person, at another time, with different terms (the amount of money), or by authority of someone who did not give such authority.
Thirdly, the defendant falsely made or altered the check or endorsement with intent to defraud.
Intent to defraud means that the defendant had the purpose to obtain property that he was not entitled to receive.
Again, in cases involving something other than a bank check, the parties involved in the case will likely agree to slight modifications of the instructions described above. Taking a look at these, especially with a focus on a check, makes understanding the crime easier.
How do we win my forgery case?
Criminal defense attorneys win criminal cases a variety of ways. But importantly, the very definition of “winning” a case changes depending on many circumstances. Is the defendant innocent and trying to completely beat the charges he’s facing? Does he want a reduction in the charges he’s facing? Or, in certain circumstances, are we looking to keep the sentence as low as possible?
In a literal sense, winning the case usually requires either a not guilty finding at trial, or a complete dismissal of charges before that point. There’s a few ways to achieve such a result:
Firstly, there’s usually a significant battle that occurs well before trial. Do we have pre-trial motions to file challenging illegal or unconstitutional police or prosecutor conduct? Certain motions are more powerful than others. For example, a motion challenging the legality of a search warrant could result in the suppression of all evidence against the defendant. In other cases, it might simply result in certain pieces of evidence being kept out of trial. The former situation usually results in a dismissal of charges against the defendant. The latter simply puts the defendant in a better position to fight his case.
Contact Van Severen Law Office at (414) 270-0202 regarding any criminal charges today.
Van Severen Law Office, S.C. is a Wisconsin law firm that focuses on defending individuals accused of committing crimes throughout the state. Frequently we defend individuals facing charges just like forgery, and we’re prepared to help you through your case.
Because of our dedication to helping individuals in positions just like yours, we offer free one-hour consultations to potential clients. Contact us immediately at (414) 270-0202 to begin speaking about your case.