West Palm Beach Counterfeiting Defense Lawyer

Federal criminal attorneys defending Palm Beach County, Florida

For most people, the idea of counterfeiting brings to mind images of people printing illegal currency and attempting to make purchases with fake bills. However, counterfeiting is a broad term that generally describes the act of creating a fraudulent copy of an item or forging important documents. Forgery is a term that is often used interchangeably with counterfeiting, though forgery typically refers to unauthorized replicas of important documents. In recent years, there has been increased interest around the crime of creating “knock off” high-end designer clothing, handbags, shoes, and accessories. Florida imposes criminal penalties against people who are convicted of counterfeiting:

  • private label items
  • checks or bank documents
  • identification cards
  • medical documents
  • official signatures
  • legal tender

It is also illegal to possess equipment that is used to make counterfeit items or to knowingly be in possession of a counterfeited document or good. Counterfeiting and forgery are federal offenses; therefore, a person who is convicted may be sentenced to years in federal prison. Forgery may be charged as a state or federal offense.

Florida state law against forgery

In Florida, it is illegal to create or alter a document with the intent to injure or defraud another person. State law specifically prohibits forging the following documents:

  • public records, certificates, documents issued by court clerks and registers, public register documents, notarized documents, documents issued by a town clerk or any public officer
  • charters, deeds, wills, testaments, bonds, or writings obligatory, letters of attorney, insurance policies, bills of lading, bills of exchange or promissory notes, and orders, acquittances, or discharges for money or other property
  • an acceptance of a bill of exchange or promissory note for the payment of money
  • receipts for money, goods, or other property
  • any ticket, pass, or other evidence of transportation issued by a common carrier

Uttering a forged document

Most forgery offenses are usually charged as “Forgery-Uttering” in Florida. Uttering a forged instrument is a third degree felony punishable by up to five years in state prison. In proving Uttering, the prosecutor must establish the defendant:

  • uttered and published an altered or forged document as true
  • knew the instrument was altered, counterfeited, or forged
  • had the intent to injure or defraud

Counterfeiting goods

Most people have seen and perhaps even purchased a replica of a popular branded item or luxury good. Despite the fact that counterfeit items are often sold openly in plain sight at flea markets and on sidewalks, Florida law prohibits the production and distribution of counterfeit goods. Counterfeit items usually bear a trademark that is similar to that of a popular brand, but may feature a slight, often indistinguishable, difference from the name brand item the replica is intended to mimic. Contrary to what many people believe, most counterfeiting arrests do not involve people who simply purchased one item from a street vendor. People who are charged for possessing counterfeit goods or luxury items are typically suspected of having the intent to sell or distribute the replica. Potential penalties for counterfeiting good are:

  • a first degree misdemeanor conviction for the manufacture or sale of less than 100 items valued at less than $2,500, punishable by a fine of up to $1,000, one year in prison, or both
  • a third degree felony conviction, punishable by up to five years in prison, a fine of up to $5,000, or both if the offense involves fewer than 1,000 pieces and the goods are valued at less than $20,000
  • a second degree felony punishable by up to $15,0000 and/or up to 15 years in prison for goods valued at more than $20,000

Currency counterfeiting in Florida

Counterfeiting currency infringes on the federal government’s ability to print and regulate the volume of currency that is in circulation. Therefore, currency counterfeiting is a federal crime. Money counterfeiting laws are not limited to coins and paper currency, but also include:

  • treasury bills
  • gold and silver certificates
  • certificates of deposit
  • federal reserve notes
  • bonds
  • other financial instruments issued by the federal government

It is also illegal under federal law to attempt to introduce counterfeit currency into the stream of commerce by making purchases, selling the counterfeit instruments, or depositing them into a bank account both domestically and abroad. Prosecutors in currency counterfeiting cases must prove the defendant had an intent to commit fraud. If a defendant is convicted on a counterfeiting charge, he or she may be sentenced to up to 25 years in prison and/or ordered to pay up to $25,000 in fines.

Contact a West Palm Beach defense lawyer

Forgery and counterfeiting are serious charges that may result in a defendant being sentenced to time in federal prison in certain instances. An experienced West Palm Beach counterfeiting defense lawyer can help people who have been accused navigate Florida’s complex criminal court system while gathering the most important evidence to help the defendant best present his or her case at trail.