Forgery and Fraud Offenses

Experienced Representation in St. Petersburg

Florida law is replete with provisions related to forgery and fraud-related offenses, the majority of which are found in Chapter 800 of the Florida Statutes. Many of these types of offenses constitute felonies and a person can be prosecuted for not only uttering forged or fraudulent documents, but for merely possessing them as well. As indicated below, multiple offenses may also subject an offender to some of Florida's harsh recidivist sentencing statutes, which can drastically increase the maximum penalty authorized by law. In cases involving the fraudulent use of personal identification information, certain minimum mandatory sentences may apply as well.

If you have been arrested or charged with a fraud related offense, or think you might be, you must contact an experienced Tampa Bay area criminal defense attorney as soon as practicable. In many instances, prompt intervention by a qualified attorney, on behalf of the accused person, can increase the likelihood of a more favorable outcome. What follows is a general overview of some of the more common types of fraud and forgery offenses our clients face. If you have been charged with a fraud or forgery offense that is either listed here or not, attorney Donald J. Kilfin is available to discuss the circumstances of your case and what options are available to you.

Forgery

Pursuant to Fla. Stat. § 831.07, "whoever falsely makes, alters, forges or counterfeits a public record, or a certificate, return or attestation of any clerk or register of a court, public register, notary public, town clerk, or any public officer, in relation to a matter wherein such certificate, return or attestation may be received as a legal proof; or a charter, deed, will, testament, bond, or writing obligatory, letter of attorney, policy of insurance, bill of lading, bill of exchange or promissory note, or an order, acquittance, or discharge for money or other property, or an acceptance of a bill of exchange or promissory note for the payment of money, or any receipt for money, goods, or other property, or any passage ticket, pass or other evidence of transportation issued by a common carrier, with intent to injure or defraud any person, shall be guilty of a felony of the third degree".

A third degree felony is punishable by up to five years in prison. Forgery is a level two offense on Florida's sentencing guidelines. In an of itself, it will not score a mandatory prison sentence, but that does not mean that a prison sentence cannot be imposed. If multiple counts are charged, or if the person's record of prior convictions is lengthy, that person may indeed score mandatory prison for this type of offense.

Uttering Forged Instruments

Pursuant to Fla. Stat. § 831.02, "whoever utters and publishes as true a false, forged or altered record, deed, instrument or other writing as detailed above, knowing the same to be false, altered, forged, or counterfeited, with intent to injure or defraud any person, shall be guilty of a felony of the third degree."

What separates Forgery from Uttering a Forged Instrument is that the former involves the act of forging the instrument whereas the latter involves tendering the instrument after the forgery has occurred. Uttering a Forged instrument is a level two offense as well.

Forging Bank Bills, Checks, Drafts, or Promissory Notes

In accordance with Fla. Stat. § 831.07, "whoever falsely makes, alters, forges, or counterfeits a bank bill, check, draft, or promissory note payable to the bearer thereof, or to the order of any person, issued by an incorporated banking company in this state, or the United States, or any foreign province, state, or government, with intent to injure any person, commits a felony of the third degree".

Possession of Forged Notes, Bills, Checks, or Drafts

In accordance with Fla. Stat. § 831.08, "whoever has in his or her possession ten or more similar false, altered, forged, or counterfeit notes, bills of credit, bank bills, checks, drafts, or notes, payable to the bearer thereof or to the order of any person, knowing the same to be false, altered, forged, or counterfeit, with the intent to utter and pass the same as true, and thereby to injure or defraud any person, commits a felony of the third degree".

Uttering Forged Notes, Bills, Checks, Drafts

In accordance with Fla. Stat. § 831.09, "whoever utters, passes, or tenders in payment as true any false, altered, forged, or counterfeit note, or any bank bill, check, draft, or promissory note, payable to the bearer thereof or to the order of any person, issued as aforesaid, knowing the same to be false, altered, forged, or counterfeit, with the intent to injure or defraud any person, commits a felony of the third degree".

It should be noted that any person who has previously been convicted of Uttering Forged Notes, Bills, Checks, or Drafts, and is again convicted of that offense, and on three distinct charges of such offense committed within a six month period, shall be deemed a common utterer of counterfeit bills and shall be punished as a Habitual Felony Offender under Fla. Stat. § 775.084.

Whether the offense is prosecuted in St. Petersburg, Clearwater, or Tampa, the accused person will most likely be placed on a period of probation, will be required to pay all associated fines and court costs, and make restitution to the alleged victim for any monetary damages he or she suffered as a result of the offense. Depending on the circumstances, including the accused person's person's prior record, an incarcerative component may be part of the disposition. At The Kilfin Law Firm, P.C. we strive to avoid any jail or prison time for our clients by taking a proactive approach with the state, and ensuing our clients are proactive in doing what they need to do to minimize the impact of the charge.

Fraudulent Use of Personal Identification Information

Florida's statute on the fraudulent use of personal identification information is found in section 817.5685. Many of the relevant provisions, including reclassification and enhancements, are set forth below. The fraudulent use of personal identification information is typically a more serious offense than forging or uttering offenses set forth above and, under certain circumstances, minimum mandatory sentences may apply.

Any person who willfully and without authorization fraudulently uses, or possesses with the intent to fraudulently use, personal identification information concerning an individual, without that person's consent, commits the offense of fraudulent use of personal identification information, which is a felony of the third degree.

Any person who willfully and without authorization fraudulently uses, or possesses with the intent to fraudulently use, personal identification information concerning an individual, without that person's consent, commits a felony of the second degree if the pecuniary benefit, the value if the services received, the payment sought to be avoided, or the amount of the injury or fraud perpetrated is is $5,000 or more or if the person fraudulently uses the personal identification information of 10 or more individuals, but fewer than 20 individuals, without their consent. The maximum penalty for a second degree felony is 15 years in state prison, and the court shall sentence the person to a three year minimum mandatory prison term for a violation of this provision.

Any person who willfully and without authorization fraudulently uses, or possesses with the intent to fraudulently use, personal identification information concerning an individual, without that person's consent, commits a felony of the second degree if the pecuniary benefit, the value if the services received, the payment sought to be avoided, or the amount of the injury or fraud perpetrated is is $5,000 or more or if the person fraudulently uses the personal identification information of 10 or more individuals, but fewer than 20 individuals, without their consent. The maximum penalty for a second degree felony is fifteen years in state prison, and the court shall sentence the person to a three year minimum mandatory prison term for a violation of this provision.

Any person who willfully and without authorization fraudulently uses, or possesses with the intent to fraudulently use, personal identification information concerning an individual, without that person's consent, commits a felony of the first degree if the pecuniary benefit, the value if the services received, the payment sought to be avoided, or the amount of the injury or fraud perpetrated is is $50,000 or more or if the person fraudulently uses the personal identification information of 20 or more individuals, but fewer than 30 individuals, without their consent. The maximum penalty for a first degree felony is thirty years in state prison, and the court shall sentence the person to a five year minimum mandatory prison term for a violation of this provision.

If the pecuniary benefit, the value if the services received, the payment sought to be avoided, or the amount of the injury or fraud perpetrated is $100,000 or more or if the person fraudulently uses the personal identification information of 30 or more individuals without their consent, the court shall sentence the person to a ten year minimum mandatory prison term for a violation of this provision.

Reclassification for Use of Public Records

If any fraudulent use of personal identification information was facilitated or furthered by the use of a public record, the offense is reclassified as follows:

  • A misdemeanor of the first degree is reclassified as a felony of the third degree;
  • A felony of the third degree is reclassified as a felony of the second degree;
  • A felony of the second degree is reclassified as a felony of the first degree.

Also, Florida law specifically provides that where the offense is reclassified, its ranking for purposes of the sentencing guidelines is increased by one level. For more information on sentencing guidelines, minimum mandatories, and maximum penalties, see the Sentencing section of our website. Of course, an experienced St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Tampa criminal defense attorney can answer any questions that are specific to your case or circumstances.

Where victim is less than 18 years of age or accused is parent or guardian

Any person who willfully and without authorization fraudulently uses personal identification information concerning an individual who is less than 18 years of age, without the consent of that person, or his or her parent or legal guardian, commits a felony of the second degree.

Any person who is in the relationship of parent or legal guardian, or who otherwise exercises custodial authority over a person who is less than 18 years of age, who willfully and fraudulent uses personal identification information of that person commits a felony of the second degree.

For any of these types offenses, as stated above, early intervention by an experienced, qualified Tampa Bay area criminal defense attorney is crucial. There may be a number of viable defenses to these types of charges, including, but not limited to:

  • Lack of knowledge regarding the altered status of the document(s);
  • Lack of intent to defraud another person;
  • Lack of sufficient identification to link the accused person to the alleged crime;
  • Expiration of the applicable statute of limitations.

While a particular defense or defenses may not result in the charge being outright dropped, they may be used to secure a more favorable outcome. For more information on what options may be available, see the Client Solutions section of our website. More specific inquiries may be directed to attorney Donald J. Kilfin at any time.