Counterfeiting entails altering or creating from scratch fake documents or transactions. It is closely linked to forgery, which encompasses creating fraudulent copies of real documentation, signatures and other types of property. These crimes may also be referred to as “uttering and publishing,” which describe the fraudulent use of fake documents or transactions to harm others and illegally obtain a benefit.
If you have been accused of forging or counterfeiting money or a document, or intentionally using a fake document to defraud a person or business, you should immediately contact an attorney. Forgery and counterfeiting are serious crimes in Michigan and could also lead to federal charges. The best way to handle these accusations is to work with a Lansing counterfeiting attorney who will protect your rights during an investigation and build a strong defense on your behalf.
There Are Many Counterfeiting Offenses In Michigan
There are a number of Michigan offenses related to counterfeiting, though this criminal activity often relates to the creation of fraudulent paper money, checks, money orders, titles, deeds, driver’s licenses, passports and other documents used to commit identity theft.
- Counterfeit public records (MCL 750.248): You can be charged with a felony for creating a fake document to be used as a public record or legal proof, such as a will, letter of attorney or promissory note and using it to defraud another person. You can be imprisoned for up to 14 years if convicted.
- Uttering a counterfeit document (MCL 750.248a): If you utter or publish as true any counterfeit, forged, altered or false financial transaction device with the intent to defraud, including any debit or credit card, then you can be charged with a felony.
- Counterfeit documents affecting real property (MCL 750.248b): It is a felony, punishable by up to 14 years in prison, to make, alter, forge, or counterfeit a deed, discharge of mortgage, or any other document affecting an interest in real property with the intent to defraud another person.
- Uttering and publishing (MCL 750.249): If you utter or publish as true any false, forged, altered, or counterfeit record, instrument, or other writing listed in Section 248, knowing it is fake and with the intent to defraud, then you can be charged with a felony and imprisoned for up to 14 years.
- Forgery of notes issued by the state (MCL 750.250): You are prohibited from making, altering, forging or counterfeiting any note, certificate, bond, or another instrument issued by the treasurer or another officer of the state or municipality with the intent to defraud. Doing so is a felony, and it is punishable by up to seven years in prison.
- Forgery of bank bills (MCL 750.251): If you make, alter, forge or counterfeit any bank bills or notes, such as checks, with the intent to defraud, you could be convicted of a felony and punished with a maximum of seven years in prison.
- Possession of counterfeit notes (MCL 750.252): It is illegal to possess counterfeit notes with the intent to use them. If you are found with 10 or more similar false, altered, forged or counterfeit notes, which you know to be counterfeit, and you intend to try and pass them off as real, then you may be convicted of a felony. This is punishable by up to seven years in prison.
- Uttering counterfeit notes as true (MCL 750.253): You can be charged with a felony if you pass or tender as true, with the intent to defraud, any false, altered, forged or counterfeit notes, which you know to be fake. For this, you can be imprisoned for a maximum of five years.
Federal Counterfeiting Charges
If you are caught creating or using a fake, altered, forged, or counterfeit document or note in Michigan, you may be charged with a federal crime, not a state-level crime. Forgery and counterfeiting are also prohibited under 18 U.S. Code Chapter 25, §§470 – 514.
When you are accused of creating or using fake U.S. money, whether it is paper money or coin, you are likely to be charged with a federal offense. Under §471, making, forging, altering or counterfeiting any security of the U.S. with the intent to defraud can be punished with fines and up to 20 years in prison. If you pass, utter, publish, or sell forged or counterfeit securities with the intent to defraud, you can be fined and sent to prison for up to 20 years under §472.
In general, the terms of incarceration for federal forgery and counterfeiting offenses are longer than those for similar state-level crimes. If you are charged with a federal offense, you need to speak with an attorney about the life-changing penalties you could face.
Penalties And Consequences Of A Counterfeiting Conviction
If you are being investigated for counterfeiting or forgery or are facing criminal charges, you need to contact a Lansing counterfeiting lawyer immediately. Being convicted of this type of fraud offense in Michigan can lead to serious consequences, including:
Beyond the statutory penalties, you may experience a number of collateral consequences, including:
- Difficulty continuing your education
- Difficulty obtaining or ineligibility for a professional license or the loss of your professional license
- Difficulty obtaining and maintaining a job
- Immigration issues, such as the denial of a visa, green card, or citizenship or deportation
- Loss of child custody or visitation
- Loss of your right to own firearms
Defending Against Counterfeiting Accusations
When you are accused of a state or federal forgery or counterfeiting offense, you need to speak with an attorney about your defense options. There may be a number of defenses appropriate in your case. However, it takes working with an experienced Lansing counterfeiting lawyer to identify them. Your attorney may argue:
- You lacked the intent to injure or defraud anyone.
- You did not know that the document or transaction was faked, altered, forged or counterfeited.
- There has been a mistake of identity, and someone else committed the offense.
- There is insufficient evidence to prove you committed the offense beyond a reasonable doubt.
How DeBruin Law, PLLC, Can Help
After being charged with any type of counterfeiting, forgery or fraud offense, your next step is to call an experienced lawyer. First, an attorney will concentrate on protecting you from law enforcement agents. The police want to gather as much evidence against you as possible, and they could use deceiving tactics to do so. A lawyer will ensure you remain silent when appropriate and cooperate when it is safe and in your best interest to do so.
Next, your lawyer will fight to have the charges reduced or dropped. If the prosecution insists on moving forward with charges and the court allows it, then the next step is to determine if any evidence against you should be excluded. Some evidence may be inadmissible in court if it was obtained illegally or is irrelevant to your case.
During all of this time, your attorney will be gathering evidence on your behalf, analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of your case, and building the strongest defense possible.