When we hear the word "forgery" we typically think of a "fake" – something like a fake signature on a document, or a work of art made to look like an original famous painting. But when someone is charged with a forgery offense in the Arizona criminal courts, the charge can cover things far greater than the creation of these fake things. Here are some of the different acts for which people can be charged with forgery in Arizona:
1. Falsely making, completing, or altering a written instrument. This general section of the statute covers everything from the creation, from scratch, of a false document, such as a check, to the mere "completing" of a real check that has already been signed by the true owner of the check. For example, if someone found a check on the street that was signed by the true owner, but the payee section was left blank, it would still constitute forgery to fill in the payee name without the authority of the true owner of the check.
Here are a couple examples of cases that fall under this definition of forgery:
We often see cases were genuine checks have been washed and then completed with fraudulent information. We also often see cases where a suspect has given a false name to the police and has signed that false name to some police document, such as a fingerprint card.
2. Another way to get into trouble with forgery charges is for the mere possession of a written instrument that has been falsely completed, made, or altered. Thus, if Smith fills in the blanks on a false check (or any check that Smith has no authority to complete), and then hands the false check to Jones, Jones is responsible for the forgery merely by possessing the false check. Note that Jones would have to have knowledge of the fact that the check was a forgery.
3. Finally, "forgery" charges can be filed for an attempt to pass a forged device, regardless of whether the attempt is successful. For example, if a forged check is passed to a bank teller who refuses to honor the check, the presenter is still guilty of forgery (provided he or she knew that the check was forged). That's guilty of forgery – not attempted forgery. The attempt itself is a forgery.
We often see this type of forgery charge arise in the context of prescription drug violations. That is, someone presents a prescription to the pharmacist that was falsely signed in the name of a prescribing doctor. When the pharmacist catches this error, the presenter of the prescription is guilty of forgery regardless of the fact that the prescription was not actually filled.