Uttering and Publishing
The Michigan crime of uttering and publishing can be complex. Based on its name, it appears that that the crime involves actions that are spoken or written, but it is only very specific instances of speech or writing. Uttering and publishing is actually a crime related to the forgery or counterfeiting of important documents and then attempting to pass them off as if they are legitimate. Fraud is treated very seriously in Michigan, and the uttering and publishing of fraudulent documents can lead to significant time in prison.
Elements of Uttering and Publishing
Michigan Penal Code Section 750.249 states that it is an offense to utter and publish “as true a false, forged, altered, or counterfeit record…knowing it to be false, altered, forged, or counterfeit with intent to injure or defraud.” Courts in Michigan have established that there are three elements to the crime of uttering and publishing:
- Knowledge on the part of the defendant that the instrument was false
- An intent to defraud
- Presentation of the false instrument
In order to be found guilty of uttering and publishing, the prosecution must prove each of these elements beyond a reasonable doubt.
Types of Documents Involved in the Offense
Michigan’s Penal Code provides multiple offenses that constitute uttering and publishing, depending on the type of document that was presented. The types of documents fall into the following categories:
- Public records and other documents (MPC 750.249) – Includes public records, certificates from the clerk of court or the register of deeds, insurance policies, promissory notes, and account receipts
- Financial transaction devices (MPC 750.248a) – Includes credit cards, debit cards, and electronic funds transfer cards
- Documents affecting interest in real estate (MPC 750.249b) – Includes deeds, discharges of mortgages, and other documents that affect an interest in real property
Michigan courts have ruled that the documents involved in the commission of uttering and publishing do not have to be forged or counterfeit documents. The law also applies to instruments that are legally valid but were acquired by deceptive means. For example, the Michigan Court of Appeals upheld a conviction for uttering and publishing when a defendant opened a bank account under a false name and then attempted to use a valid check drawn on that false bank account to purchase groceries. In another instance, the use of valid gift cards that were obtained by using a stolen credit card and false identification was considered uttering and publishing.
Criminal Penalties for Uttering and Publishing
A conviction for uttering and publishing is considered a felony that is punishable by up to 14 years in prison. However, the offense of uttering and publishing is only for the knowing use of false documents. Significant additional criminal penalties could be imposed if the defendant was involved in the fraud or forgery that lead to the creation of the documents that were used.
How a Lansing Fraud Lawyer Can Help
Uttering and publishing may seem like an obscure offense since the phrase is not often used outside of the legal system. However, it is a crime that is even more relevant now than when the law was first made effective back in 1931. The way that advancing technology continually makes it easier to scan and edit important documents means more opportunities are created to present a false document in an effort to commit fraud. It also means there is an increased risk of someone unknowingly presenting a fraudulent document and facing charges for uttering and publishing. A skilled Lansing fraud attorney can help to establish that you did not have the required knowledge or intent to commit the crime.
Attorney Tiffany DeBruin is a Michigan fraud attorney with the experience necessary to provide a strong defense not only for uttering and publishing charges, but for other charges associated with the creation and use of fraudulent documents.