A death certificate is an official document that declares and verifies a person's death for the purposes of national health statistics and homicide cover-up prevention. The official document must be completed by a certified medical examiner or it is not valid. Producing a fake document can carry a number of penalties depending on the use of the item in both local and federal courts, which often results in the classification of the crime as a felony.
Fraud and Law-Enforcement Invasion
Fake death certificates are most commonly seen in cases of fraud and law enforcement evasion, where the penalty for producing the document will vary based on the type of crime that is being committed. Producers may face a combination of fines and jail time but the sentence will be related to the severity of the crime that was intended to be committed using the document
Sometimes fake death certificates are made using the identity of living individuals, causing a freeze on their assets, cancellation of their credit lines, revoking of their licenses and other financially and socially disruptive consequences. Penalties for these types of forgeries are similar in nature to those using your own identity, but may be steeper in restitution for the victim.
Obscure Crime and Defraud Insurance Companies
Physicians and certified medical examiners who complete a death certificate in good faith are not liable in a criminal action lawsuit. However, physicians and certified medical examiners that fraudulently complete the certificate to obscure a crime or defraud an insurance company, either for themselves or someone else, will be charged with fees and jail time at the felony level.
Shannon Johnson has been a freelance writer since 2008, specializing in health and organic and green-living topics. She practiced law for five years before moving on to work in higher education. She writes about what she lives on a daily basis.