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When is Forgery a Felony?

Our society depends on knowing when certain documents are real and true. Money, legal documents, deeds, certificates of education, and corporate stock certificates are instruments that people trust to mean something important. Forgery is a crime that gives a different meaning to important documents. Some types of forgery bring felony charges while others, a misdemeanor. Learn about what types of forgery can cause you to face felony charges.

What is Forgery?

Even just intending to commit forgery can be a crime. Even just having two fake bank cards in your possession can cause you to face charges. Whether you intend to defraud someone is an important factor in whether law enforcement charges you with forgery. 

Signing your grandmother’s bank card for her because she has arthritis and asks you to sign for her is not going to send you to jail. If you are a minor and your mother isn’t home to sign a report card, but you sign it for her, you do not need to worry about forgery charges. However, you may need to worry about what your mother will do when she finds out though.

Forgery committed for financial gain is fraud. Fraud is a crime where you benefit financially from someone else. You may also commit criminal forgery for other types of gain, such as forging a college diploma to get a job.

Financial Transaction Card (FTC) Forgery

If you sign, create, or steal bank cards or other financial information to benefit yourself, you defraud another person of their financial benefits. You can face charges for forgery of a financial transaction card when you intend to defraud someone and you: 

  • Falsely make or emboss an FTC or tell someone the info on it 
  • Encode, duplicate, or alter encoded information on an FTC or tell someone the info
  • Sign an FTC that’s not yours
  • Make or draw a device or instrument which claims to be someone else’s FTC
  • Alter an FTC that was validly issued
  • Falsely encode an FTC without authorization
  • Record information on an FTC which will permit acceptance of that card by any automated banking device. 
  • Possess two or more FTCs with another name that are falsely made or falsely embossed
  • Possess two or more FTCs with another name that are falsely signed

Misdemeanor Forgery: 

If the value of all stolen money, goods, services is less than $500 in a 6-month period, according to NC Law, you will likely face Class 2 Misdemeanor Charges which, upon conviction, could include 1-60 days jail, probation, or a fine. A charge of FTC Theft, Fraud, or Forgery will also bring many associated court fees, possible fines, a criminal record, and attorney fees.

Class I Felony Forgery: 

FTC theft valued over $500 in a 6 month period is punishable as provided by G.S. 14-113.17(b) as a Class I felony with a likely 3-12 months jail or probation. A charge of financial transaction card theft will also bring associated court fees, possible fines, a felony record, and attorney fees. 

Bank & Legal Document Forgery

NC Law makes clear what is illegal when it comes to banknotes. If you take banknotes or some other genuine financial or legal document and connect them together in a way that makes something different, you can face forgery charges. A court of law must prove that you intend to use them for financial gain to convict you of forgery though.

Anytime you defraud someone of their financial rights to a mutual fund, money market fund, credit union, savings and loan association, or bank through counterfeiting or forgery, you can face criminal charges. 

Class G Felony Forgery:

Forging or counterfeiting (or even possessing) any counterfeit currency, bill, note, warrant, check, order, or similar instrument of any financial institution, government, or corporation is a crime when you intend to defraud another. If law enforcement finds you with five or more counterfeit instruments with the intent to defraud someone, you are guilty of a Class G felony.

Giving Information to Another

The information on a forged or counterfeit instrument (like the ones listed above) is not legal to use for your own financial benefit. You face criminal legal charges in NC when you knowingly use the information in one of these ways with the intent to defraud someone.

You commit a Class I felony when you:

  • Speak or say the information
  • Publish it
  • Make, forge or counterfeit any endorsement 
  • Pass or deliver false, forged, or counterfeited information
  • Attempt to pass or deliver false, forged, or counterfeited information

However, you can face charges for a Class H felony if you sell a:

  • Judgment for recovery of money thought to be made by a magistrate
  • Bond 
  • Promissory note
  • Bill of exchange
  • Order
  • Draft 
  • Liquidated account thought to be signed by the debtor 

Forging Legal Instruments, Deeds & Wills

Our society trusts that legal instruments such as deeds and wills are correct and valid. If you use these trusted documents to benefit financially, North Carolina law may come down hard on you. 

Class H Felony:

You’re committing a felony if you have intent to defraud anyone by involving yourself in falsely forging, making, or using a forged:

  • Deed
  • Lease 
  • Will
  • Bond, 
  • Writing obligatory 
  • Bill of exchange
  • Promissory note 
  • Endorsement or assignment 
  • Acquittance or receipt for money or goods
  • Receipt or release for any bond, note, bill, or any other security for money 
  • Order for the payment of money or delivery of goods

Falsifying Documents

High schools, community colleges, universities, and governmental agencies award documents to prove a person has achieved. When you interfere in our society’s system for determining what others are capable of, you commit forgery crimes.

It’s a Class 1 Misdemeanor crime to knowingly and willfully alter or make a false:

  • Diploma
  • Certificate
  • License
  • Transcript signifying merit or achievement in an educational or governmental program 

It’s also a Class 1 Misdemeanor to use these types of documents to:

  • Sell
  • Give
  • Buy
  • Obtain
  • Procure to be sold, given, bought, or obtained
  • Aid or assist in selling, giving, buying, or obtaining
  • Use, offer, or present as genuine a falsely made or falsely altered document
  • Make a false written representation that you received a degree or other certification for employment, admission to another program, for an award, to induce an institution to give you a diploma, certificate, license, or transcript.

Corporate Forgery

If you get involved in forging corporate stock certificates, you can face criminal charges as a Class I felony. If convicted, felony charges can follow you even without jail time and prevent you from finding suitable housing or getting another job. 

Class I Felony Charges:

Falsely making a certificate or other writing to defraud someone is illegal. It’s a forgery when you use a false certificate for the sake of gain to defraud the corporation or someone else. There are several ways to commit corporate forgery, including:

  • Issuing or delivering a false certificate to any other person
  • Changing who is entitled to or has an interest in the stock of a corporation
  • Knowingly assign false certificates
  • Changing the amount of stock in a certificate 
  • Knowingly transfer false certificates
  • Knowingly deliver false certificates

We Can Help

At Scharff Law, we understand the criminal forgery charges you face. We want to help you find your way through our often biased justice system. Without a knowledgeable and experienced legal voice on your side, the prosecutor may not hear your voice. We all have reasons for what we do. Let us help you make your reasons clear and find a defense that will work for your best outcome in your specific situation. 


  1. https://www.ncleg.gov/Laws/GeneralStatuteSections/Chapter14