Writing is such a big part of everyday life, that we rarely give it a second thought.
When you post your thoughts on the Internet or sign for a package, you are creating a record that can be used for your benefit or detriment.
One of the most common crimes in Utah actually has to do with writing, and that is forgery. Under state law, forgery is when someone pretends to be another person using the written word. The forger either alters the text or creates new text as someone else. They may also say they are acting on behalf of the other person, when they are not.
Forgery is not taken lightly in the state of Utah. It is a third-degree felony. This means you can face up to five years in prison, and you may have to pay fines of up to $5,000. In addition, it is mandated by Utah law that the court orders that the materials that were forged be forfeited and destroyed.
Making your own currency and then using it is considered counterfeit. While there are a lot of federal laws about this, there is not a Utah law specifically addressing it by name. When people are arrested in the Beehive State for using counterfeit money, they are charged with forgery.
Let’s say you didn’t actually create the money. You just happened to carry counterfeit money with you. That is considered possessing forgery writing, which is also a third-degree felony.
Let’s say you write a work based on that author’s intellectual property. You then post it to the Internet. In other words, you create a work of fan fiction.
Under Utah law, this is only considered forgery if your intent was to deceive people. So if you are trying to pass yourself off as the original author, that would fall under forgery. If you’re honest, and you admit that you are just a fan, then you probably won’t get charged with it.
When it comes to carrying counterfeit money that you didn’t make, intent is also important. The person has to knowingly have the forged writing. So if someone gave you a counterfeit bill, and you thought it was real, you are likely okay.
Catfishing is when someone pretends to be another person online. The catfish will often pretend to be an attractive person or a celebrity and reach out to other people on social media in an effort to deceive. Sometimes the catfish is looking for money, but that’s not always the case.
So what if the catfish pretends to be someone who doesn’t exist? Is it still forgery? Under Utah law, it is. A forger can pretend to be someone real or fictional. You could create text pretending to be Harry Potter with the intent of deceiving people, and you can still end up behind bars.
One of the most famous forgery cases actually happened in Utah. It was a man named Mark Hoffman. In 1985, he set off three bombs that killed two people. He did it to distract the public from forged documents that he made. The most well-known of his works was a fake letter by Martin Harris — a key figure in the early days of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints — known as the Salamander Letter.
That was only one example of his many forgeries. He also forged documents of Mark Twain, Emily Dickenson, and even George Washington. Hoffman’s deceptions and the subsequent killings became the subject of a Netflix documentary series entitled Murder Among the Mormons.
If you find yourself charged with forgery, you will want to hire a competent attorney who can help you. This is true whether you are guilty or innocent. A lawyer can help you understand your legal options and ensure you get the best outcome possible.
The lawyers at Brown, Bradshaw & Moffat have over two decades of experience behind them. They have represented people in all kinds of criminal cases, and they would love to help you out. For a free consultation, call (801) 532-5297.
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