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What is a defense to a forgery charge?

If you are convicted under New York’s Forgery and Criminal Possession of a Forged instrument crimes, you can face serious penalties that have a long-term impact on your future. The complex factual issues involved in white collar criminal offenses like forgery make it important to have the representation of an experienced financial crimes attorneys. Courts often construe aspects of the forgery statute broadly meaning that attorneys who are unfamiliar with these types of charges might have more difficulty mounting an effective defense.

The case of People v. Lydon, 2006 NY Slip Op 7125 (1st Dept. 2006) provides an example of the liberal application of the forgery in the context of crimes involving the unauthorized use of a credit card. The defendant was convicted of multiple counts of forgery although it is unclear whether the defendant was charged with forgery in the third degree under New York Penal Law § 170.05, which is a class A misdemeanor, or forgery in the second degree under New York Penal Law § 170.10, which is a class D felony.

At trial, evidence was introduced that the defendant would contact pizza parlors and order pizzas for delivery. During these telephone calls, the defendant would furnish one of two distinct credit card numbers. Rather than wait for the pizzas to be delivered, the defendant would drive to the pizza parlor and complete the transaction. When it came time to sign the credit card receipts, the defendant would illegibly scrawl gibberish or the name “Mike”. Mike was not the name of either of the credit card holders who were a married couple.

The defendant appealed his forgery conviction based on two separate theories. The first basis for appeal involved the prosecutor’s decision to introduce testimony from only one of the two cardholders. The cardholder that testified indicated that the defendant had not been authorized to use the credit card for the purchase. The defendant contended that because the other cardholder did not appear and testify on the issue of authorization to use the card, the prosecutor had failed to prove that the defendant did not have permission and/or authority to use the credit card.

The appellate court rejected this argument reasoning that the suspicious use of the card, testimony from one of the cardholders and testimony from a representative of the credit card company were sufficient to establish that the defendant did not have permission to use the card from the spouse of the cardholder who testified. The court characterized potential testimony from the spouse who did not appear as a witness as merely cumulative.

The defendant advanced a second basis of appeal that focused on his use of a fictitious name. According to the defense, the use of the fictitious name of “Mike” on the receipts precluded a conviction for forgery. The court rejected this analysis:

“[W]e find that defendant was properly convicted of forgery because his use of a fictitious name was for the purpose of misrepresentation and was accompanied by a ‘fraudulent design”. (Citations omitted). The evidence supports the inference that by scribbling an illegible signature, defendant was not simply signing an assumed name, but was attempting to create the impression that an actual cardholder had signed the documents.” (Citations omitted).

This case demonstrates the importance of retaining an attorney who recognizes the broad construction given by New York judges to state forgery statutes. If you are accused of a white collar felony offense like forgery, you should speak with one of our experienced and aggressive Manhattan criminal defense attorney at Greco Neyland, PC as soon as possible. We provide a free initial consultation, so we can assess your situation and advise you of your rights. Call us today at (212) 951-1300, so we can begin fighting for you.

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