Falsifying Documents in Texas
People rely on documents every day to renew driver’s licenses, apply for benefits, and request help from the government. Society depends on the authenticity of these documents. For this reason, Texas has made it a crime to falsify documents, and the penalties can be steep. If you have been accused of falsifying documents, you need a Collin County criminal defense attorney who can mount a vigorous defense on your behalf.
In Texas, it is illegal to use false information to alter, create, or sign a document for the purpose of harming or defrauding another person. The law encompasses the following:
- Altering a document without permission, such as changing the date or time on a document or altering the amount of money on a check.
- Creating a forged document, such as a birth certificate or driver’s license.
- Possessing forged documents with an intent to use them, such as possessing a forged title to a piece of real estate with the intent of defrauding a potential buyer or renter.
A key element in the law is the intent to use the falsified documents with an intent to harm someone. For example, Sam might forge a check in his father’s name and try to cash it at a bank. Because he uses the falsified document, Sam is guilty of breaking the law. However, if Sam merely found a check that was falsified and had it in his wallet, he is not guilty because he did not create it and did not intend to use the check.
The law applies to more than checks. For example, Sam might sell a baseball card and forge a certificate of authenticity. He then uses the certificate to convince a buyer to pay him $300 for the baseball card. Here, Sam is guilty of falsifying documents as well.
Punishment for Forgery
Penalties vary, with more severe penalties reserved for examples of forgery that Texas deems more serious. However, any criminal conviction can seriously disrupt your life, leading to negative collateral consequences such as job loss or trouble renting an apartment in the future.
If a person forges a credit card, check, mortgage, or will, they can be convicted of a felony. Punishment includes:
- Up to a $10,000 fine
- A jail sentence ranging from 180 days to two years
If a person forges postage stamps, money, government documents (like birth certificates or drivers license) or stocks, then he can be convicted of a third-degree felony. Punishment includes:
- Up to a $10,000 fine
- Between two and ten years in state prison
If other documents have been forged, then a person could face a Class A misdemeanor charge if the documents were minor. Punishment for a Class A misdemeanor includes:
- Up to a $4,000 fine
- A jail sentence for up to one year
A word about defrauding the elderly: Texas will enhance all penalties if the victim was someone 65 or older.
If you have been accused of falsifying documents, you need a criminal defense attorney in your corner immediately. A criminal defense attorney can help you begin building your defense by analyzing the state’s evidence and identifying holes in the case. Your lawyer can also gather evidence that shows you did not commit forgery.
For example, you might be able to claim the following as defenses:
- The state does not have evidence of every element of the offense.
- You did not intend to use falsified documents in your possession.
- The documents are not actually falsified.
- The document came into your hands already falsified, and you did not know this fact.
- You made an honest mistake filling out the document and had no intent to mislead anyone.
Each of these defenses requires evidence. Forgery cases often turn on your state of mind, so you might need to offer evidence in your own defense as to what you were thinking when you filled out or found a document.
Speak with a Collin County Criminal Defense Attorney
After being accused of a crime, you might not know what to do or where to turn. Fortunately, the Collin County criminal defense attorneys at Rosenthal Barbieri are here to help. Our criminal defense lawyers in Texas have decades of combined experience helping defendants just like you, and we are prepared to build a defense on your behalf. Contact us today to schedule your free consultation by calling (972) 369-0577.