Hand with a pen writing on a paper

Is Forgery a Felony?

The answer to the question, “Is forgery a felony?” is yes. It carries significant penalties, including lengthy prison sentences and hefty fines in Minnesota. The law covers a broader scope of forgery that goes over and above merely modifying a document or signing another person’s name on a document. 

Hand with a pen writing on a paper

An aggravated forgery conviction carries even more severe punishments, such as higher fines and decades of prison time. Forgery can sometimes be a federal-level offense. As such, it is wise to work with a forgery defense lawyer with a proven history of handling state- and federal-level forgery crimes. 

What Is the Penalty for Forgery in Minnesota?

Forgery is a serious crime in Minnesota that carries harsh penalties. You could face up to a three-year prison time if you are found guilty of this felony-level offense. The court could also slap you with a fine of up to $5,000. You could also end up serving jail time and paying the fine. 

Presenting a forged document as evidence during a felony charge hearing can result in up to $10,000 in fines or up to a 5-year prison sentence, or both. A conviction of aggravated forgery carries up to 10 years in prison or up to a $20,000 fine, or both. 

Check forgery will result in heftier fines and lengthier prison sentences based on the check value. Minnesota sometimes sums all potentially forged checks within six or twelve months to calculate the total value. The higher the aggregate value, the harsher the sentencing. 

You could, for instance, face up to 20 years in prison and up to $100,000 in fines if you are found guilty of forging checks worth over $35,000. Check fraud worth more than $2,500 could result in up to 10 years of imprisonment or up to a $20,000 fine, or both. 

Faked checks used to obtain goods worth $250 to $2,500 are considered standard forgery. Penalties for forged checks under $250 include up to a year of incarceration or up to a $3,000 fine, or both. 

The Three Classes of Forgery

Forgery in Minnesota falls into three main classes. The specific details of the alleged incident will determine the type of charges you will face. The three classes of forgery include: 


A forgery charge applies when a criminal intent to defraud someone else or an entity exists. This class covers the following actions: 

  • Deliberately using a fabricated document, such as a driver’s license, for identification or recommendation purposes;
  • Deliberately placing an altered identifying label on a product to present it as a product of another manufacturer, dealer, or packer;
  • Falsely making or altering a membership card for any association, including a labor union or trade;
  • Deliberately falsifying or destroying any document associated with an individual or business;
  • Deliberately falsifying or destroying a document or another piece of evidence to prevent it from getting presented in a court proceeding; and
  • Falsely making or altering a bus, train, or airplane ticket.

Aggravated Forgery

This class covers the same actions as a forgery but focuses more on official documents. These documents include court verdicts or orders, bank records, public records, and official seals. 

Possession of these official documents to defraud another party or entity also amounts to aggravated forgery. Possession of items for creating these false documents also falls under this class. 

An aggravated forgery charge is more serious than a standard forgery one. You should hire a lawyer to help you determine the best felony defense to get your felony charges reduced or dropped. 

Check Forgery 

Handing over a check illustration

Check forgery refers to creating or altering a written negotiable instrument to obtain money from another party or entity fraudulently. This class covers faking another person’s signature on a check. Such an act can result in a separate identity theft charge.

This class also covers knowingly using a check when you have insufficient or no funds in your bank account. Using a check from an inaccessible, nonexistent, closed, or frozen account also qualifies as check forgery. You can also be charged with forging a check if you create fake checks or modify them to change the listed amount. 

Besides the long jail time and hefty fines, a conviction of this felony offense often results in numerous collateral consequences. You may, for instance, lose your professional license if you are a medical practitioner, lawyer, or commercial truck driver. You may also struggle with renting a house, as many landlords are hesitant to rent to individuals with a criminal record. 

Getting a job after completing your sentence can be a challenge. The reason is that many employers are reluctant to hire workers who have a criminal history of forging checks. These employers are worried that the person may try to engage in illegal financial activities at work.

Is Forgery a Felony?

Minnesota law considers forgery a felony-level crime. Many people believe that forgery is merely signing someone else’s name on a document or fraudulently modifying a document. This crime, however, has a broader scope. It also covers using or possessing a fake or altered document like an official seal, court order, or membership card. 

Adding a false identifying label on a product or presenting a falsified document is also a forgery crime. Penalties for these crimes depend on various factors, including the type of forged item, the victim, and the reason for forging. The value of the item acquired or intended to be acquired determines the severity of penalties for cases involving forged checks. 

Forgery is generally a state-level offense. However, some types of forgery are charged as felonies at the federal level. Federal law, for instance, considers identity theft a felony. Federal law also forbids other kinds of forgery, like:

  • Counterfeiting money
  • Falsifying federal documents like immigration paperwork
  • Using forged documents to obtain financial gain from the federal government.

Forgery is also prosecuted at the federal level if an altered or falsified document is mailed or transported across different states. Forgery that happens in several states also qualifies as a federal offense. 

Potential Defenses Against Forgery Charges 

Many defenses against forgery charges are available in the legal field. The most effective defense strategy, however, depends on your unique situation. Choosing the right defense strategy for your case requires a careful review of the specific details of your case and available evidence. 

A skilled criminal defense lawyer can help you select the best defense in your case, whether you are facing felony or misdemeanor charges. Some common defenses against forgery charges include: 

No Intent to Defraud 

Intent must exist for a forgery conviction to occur. Simply put, you cannot be found guilty of unknowingly engaging in forgery acts. The prosecution team must demonstrate that you committed a forgery act with the intent to defraud the alleged victim. You could avoid the serious consequences of a forgery conviction if you prove you had no intent to commit the crime. 

An example is when you make a false document but do not use it to defraud another person or entity. In this situation, intent to commit the crime does not exist. The intent will still not exist even if another person uses the false document, as you did not engage in the unlawful activity directly.

It is crucial to note that a forgery felony conviction may be possible in some cases, even without intent. An example is signing someone else’s name on a financial or legal document. 

No Capacity to Commit Forgery 

Forgery usually involves generating false documents or modifying specific details on a document. You can raise the “no capacity” defense if you lack the required talent to produce such documents. 

Note that you can still face felony forgery charges if you had the intent to commit the forgery offense, even if you lacked the talent or ability to make the fake documentation. An example is when you use a photocopy of someone else’s signature. 

Lack of Evidence 

The prosecution has the burden of proof in forgery cases, like in all criminal cases. The prosecution team must demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed an unlawful act. Your lawyer can raise the lack of evidence defense if the prosecution presents a weak case against you. 


You could use this defense if someone else forced you to commit a forgery act. As previously mentioned, forgery usually becomes unlawful when you deliberately create or alter a document to defraud another party or entity. A coercion defense can help you avoid a conviction if you only committed the offense to protect yourself or your loved ones from harm. 

Constitutional Rights Violation         

Both state and federal law provides you with various rights that protect you whether you are guilty or innocent. Your lawyer could push for the exclusion of any evidence collected if the prosecution team violated your constitutional rights when doing so. A perfect example is when police officers search you, your house, or your car without probable cause or warrant. An attorney will explain when is forgery a felony at the state or federal level, and aid in establishing a solid defense.

Max Keller has won countless jury trial cases involving misdemeanors and felonies, sex crimes, and DWI’s. He is a member of the Minnesota Society for Criminal Justice, which only allows the top 50 criminal defense attorneys in the state as members. Max is a frequent speaker at CLE’s and is often asked for advice by other defense attorneys across Minnesota.

Years of Experience: Approx. 20 years
Minnesota Registration Status: Active
Bar & Court Admissions: State of Minnesota Minnesota State Court Minnesota Federal Court 8th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals State of Maryland

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