Check fraud can be committed in different ways. When a person presents a check with a falsified signature or endorsement, it is known as check forgery. Considered a white collar crime, check forgery (or indeed the forgery of any document) has become a popular method of scamming millions of dollars each year. Each state in the United States has its own set of laws regarding check fraud and forgery. However, certain penalties are carried out in all cases, regardless of location.
Several factors determine what amount, if any, a person will be fined when convicted of check forgery. Some states will classify a forgery as either a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the amounts illegally obtained from the forgery. Some states, however, will automatically classify forgery of any kind as a felony. In Tennessee, for example, forgery is an automatic Class E felony that can carry charges of up to $3000. Even when classified as a misdemeanor, forgery of checks will often be punished with legal fines.
Personal Financial Consequences
In addition to court-ordered fines, several financial hardships await individuals found guilty of check forgery. Any cases where criminal charges are filed will call for the retention of a criminal defense lawyer. Court dates and trial periods result in the loss of wages. Finally, in cases where people are found guilty of check fraud, they are often required to provide financial retribution to the individual and/or financial institution that was affected by the fraudulent activity.
Generally speaking, a person is not likely to do jail time for check forgery if it is a first offense. More often than not, a first offender will be given probation. However, this is not a steadfast rule. Issues such as monetary amounts and severity of offense can affect the ultimate ruling. The state where the case is heard can affect whether the crime is a misdemeanor or a felony, which can also determine whether or not a jail sentence will be ordered. In cases where probation is given, the person can be given the maximum jail sentence if probation is violated at any time.
Heather Clark is a professional writer with a bachelor's degree in communications from Austin Peay State University, where she was a features writer for the "AllState" campus newspaper. In addition to being a contributor for various websites, she is also a full-time staff writer/photographer for the "Courier," the U.S. Army news publication for Fort Campbell, Ky.