Pennsylvania Forgery Laws
The crime of forgery, like those of issuing bad checks or false personation, is based on fraud. In Pennsylvania, a person is guilty of forgery if, with intent to defraud or injure anyone, or with knowledge that he or she is facilitating a fraud or injury to be perpetrated by another person, the actor:
- alters any writing of another without that person’s authority
- makes, completes, executes, authenticates, issues or transfers any writing so that it purports to (a) be the act of another person who did not authorize that act, (b) to have been executed at a time or place or in a numbered sequence other than was in fact the case, or (c) to be a copy of an original when no such original existed
- utters any writing which he or she knows to be forged in a manner specified above
Although the offender must act with intent to defraud, he or she need not actually defraud or deceive another person to complete the crime. Whether a defendant possesses the requisite “intent to defraud or injure anyone” may be determined from the totality of his or her conduct.
Pennsylvania classifies basic forgery as a misdemeanor of the first degree. However, such offense will be elevated to a felony of the third degree if the writing is or purports to be a will, deed, contract, release, commercial instrument, or other document evidencing, creating, transferring, altering, terminating, or otherwise affecting legal relations. A bank check is an example of a “commercial instrument” whose forgery would result in such a felony.
A forgery offense will be further elevated to a felony of the second degree if the writing is or purports to be part of an issue of money, securities, postage or revenue stamps, or other instruments issued by the government, or part of an issue of stock, bonds or other instruments representing interests in or claims against any property or enterprise.