Can I Be Charged with Forgery for Unknowingly Using Counterfeit Money?

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You may have noticed that when you pay for something in cash, the cashier will test the large bills to see if it is real or counterfeit. If the cashier sees that you are trying to purchase something with counterfeit money, they are likely to call the police.

Once the police arrive, they may arrest you and charge you with forgery. But what if you had no idea that the money was counterfeit? Can you be charged with forgery in Texas for unknowingly using fake or counterfeit money?

If you unknowingly used fake money and were charged with forgery, do not hesitate to speak with a Waco criminal attorney to discuss your options. A skilled lawyer can help you dismiss the forgery charges by proving that you had no intent to commit a crime and had no knowledge that the money was counterfeit.

Penalties for Forgery and Using Counterfeit Money in Texas

Using counterfeit money is a crime under federal and state law. In Texas, you can be charged with forgery for using fake money. Texas Penal Code § 32.21 defines forgery as altering or making any writing, including money and coins, with the intent to defraud another person.

Generally, forgery is charged as a Class A misdemeanor. However, when the defendant is forging money or government documents or attempting to defraud someone over the age of 65, forgery is elevated to a third-degree felony.

Can I Face Federal Charges for Using Counterfeit Money?

Yes, using counterfeit money is a felony under federal law punishable by up to 20 years in prison in addition to hefty fines. You could be sentenced to two decades in prison regardless of whether you:

  1. Produce counterfeit money;

  2. Attempt to use counterfeit money to make a purchase; or

  3. Simply have counterfeit money in your possession.

But can you still face 20 years in prison if you were unknowingly using counterfeit money? As absurd as it may sound, but the answer is “Yes.” If you were arrested for using the money you didn't know was fake, you could be charged with a federal crime.

You can avoid this injustice. It is imperative to hire a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney to represent your best interests. A lawyer can protect your rights and freedom by helping you raise an effective defense strategy.

Can Forgery Charges Be Dismissed if I Didn’t Know the Money Was Fake?

In most cases, whether or not you can avoid forgery charges depends on your ability to prove the lack of criminal intent. Simply arguing that you did not know the money was fake may not be an effective strategy.

Instead, you will have to prepare a strong defense strategy with the help of a Waco criminal attorney. In order to convict you of forgery for using counterfeit money in Texas, the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you had the intent to commit the crime.

You can avoid a conviction if you can prove that you had no knowledge that the money was counterfeit and you had no criminal intent. Whether or not your arguments can succeed depends on whether you reasonably believed the money was real.

If the bill is obviously fake, you may not be able to avoid a conviction by arguing that you believed the money was real. If the cashier called the police after your attempt to make a purchase using counterfeit money, the cashier might make your case more complicated if he or she tells the police that you behaved suspiciously or were trying to hide your identity.

The State may use the cashier’s statements to argue that you had the intent to defraud the cashier by attempting to use counterfeit money. However, the term “behaving suspiciously” is rather subjective.

The same can be said about wearing a disguise, such as a face mask or sunglasses to hide one’s identity.

The lack of criminal intent and/or knowledge is the most effective defense strategy in many forgery cases involving the use of counterfeit money. However, it is highly advised to consult with an attorney to review your particular situation to identify the most appropriate defense in your case.

The Punishment for Using Counterfeit Money Depends on the Value of the Purchase

If you have been charged with forgery for using counterfeit money, the penalties would depend on the value of the purchase that you were trying to pay for using fake dollar bills.

  • If you were trying to use counterfeit money to buy something worth less than $2,500, you would face misdemeanor charges.

  • For purchases between $2,500 and $30,000, you may be charged with a state jail felony.

  • If the purchase was worth from $150,000 to $300,000, you could face a second-degree felony.

  • For items and services that cost over $300,000, the forgery charge is elevated to the felony of the first degree.

Read more about felony charges in this article: Texas Felony Charges

A forgery conviction on your criminal record can not only result in jail time and hefty fines but also damage to your reputation, employment, and housing.

For this reason, you should not hesitate to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney if you are facing forgery charges for unknowingly using counterfeit money.

A lawyer could help you avoid a conviction and get the charges dismissed. If you do not talk to a lawyer right away, you could face both federal and state charges for using fake money. Your attorney will prepare a solid defense strategy to prove that you had no idea the money was counterfeit.

Do not make any statements to the police until you get a chance to speak with a lawyer. Your words could be twisted and used against you during your criminal case to prove your guilt and convict you of forgery.

Schedule a Free Consultation with a Waco Criminal Attorney

If you or your loved one is facing forgery charges for using counterfeit money, the first thing you should do is call a criminal defense attorney to protect your rights.

Our Waco criminal attorneys at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard can help you identify the most appropriate defense strategy in your specific case. Call 254-501-4040 or contact us online to receive a free consultation.


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