Important Forgery Definitions Under Arizona Law 13-2001

In this video, we’re talking about definitions surrounding forgery. Before we can learn about the actual crime of forgery, we need to know what some of the definitions mean so we can know what we’re talking about. In order to do that, we need to look at the statute.

The statue is under 13-2001. There’s a lot of other definitions, but, today, we’re going to talk about three of the most important.

First and foremost, when we’re talking about forgery, we need to talk about what types of devices or instruments or paper or credit cards, what types of things are we looking for? And the statute is fairly clear. Let’s take a look at what it means.

So, we need to know what a written instrument is. This is the key language that’s used elsewhere in the other criminal statutes.

So we need to know what that means, written instrument. Well, a written instrument can really be one of two things. It can be, one, a paper document, an instrument that contains written or printed information on it.

So something to the equivalent of that. Anything that contains written or printed information on it that’s paper, a document, or some sort of instrument or the equivalent. Anything that kind of falls in that category is going to be considered a written instrument.

The other things that can be considered written instruments are down here, tokens, stamps, seals, badges. We have trademarks, graphical images, anything that’s an access device, anything that’s evidence or a symbol or anything of value, a right, a privilege, or identification.

So things like access cards, badges, anything that falls within that category is also going to be considered a written instrument.

So just because it’s not handwritten or printed on because it’s a badge or it’s a card or it’s something else, that is also going to be considered a written instrument for the purposes of the statutes.

So what, then, is a forged instrument? So these are all just general written instruments. A forged instrument is going to be a written instrument that has been falsely made, completed, or altered.

So you can see here we’re taking the written instrument definition and we’re saying we’re going to consider a forged instrument to be anything that’s a written instrument, that has been altered, completed, falsely altered, or any of those things. So that’s how we come to forged instruments.

So now we’re talking about forged instruments and that language is going to be used also in the statutes. So then we need to look to another definition. What does altered mean?

Well, if you look elsewhere in the statute, you’ll see that altered covers a lot of different things.

And I have just a couple of them written down here.

One, anything that’s counterfeiting, anything that’s washing, so this would be washing something off or just altering the device because you’ve washed it or made it look rugged or ragged.

Anything that’s erasing, deleting, obliterating, so you’re destroying something that’s a piece of that document.

Transposing, so taking an item from one document to another document. Inserting, so adding data that wasn’t there previously.

Or connecting two parts from other documents.

So if you take one part of one document, take another part of another document that both may be a legitimate document, but you combine them into a new document that is not accurate, it is not authentic, then that’s going to be considered altering those documents.

So you can see you can kind of tie all this back into one another; they stack on top of each other.

These are different definitions. These are very important. Sometimes people will be charged with crimes that sort of feel like forgery, but they don’t fit these definitions.

The reason these definitions exist is that they are the definitions of the law. If there’s something that doesn’t fit in any one of these categories, it cannot be illegal. It needs to be covered by the statute.

So if you can make an argument and you’ve been charged with forgery but it falls outside of one of these definitions, the government’s going to have a hard time pointing to a law that you broke if there’s nothing in the law that says that you broke, that doesn’t fit within any of these categories, you may have a very good case.

That’s why it’s always important to start with the definitions. If you or somebody that you know or love has been charged with forgery, these are very important things that we can talk about.

We can look at the facts of their case, see where they fall or do not fall within these categories, review their case very specifically. We offer free case evaluations at our office, so give us a call. We’ll get them scheduled or get you scheduled, you’ll come in, we’ll sit down, make sure we have a good understanding of what happened in your case, make sure you have a good plan moving forward so that you are not convicted of something like this.

We look forward to speaking with you soon. Give us a call.

Thanks for watching.

Before determining what conduct constitutes forgery, it is important to have a clear understanding of some of the definitions that exist under the law.

The first area that is important to understand is the definition of a written instrument. A written instrument is subject to being forged, so before we can know whether forgery has occurred, we need to know what documents are subject to forgery under the law.

In this case, a written instrument essentially includes any type of paper document that has anything written or printed on it. The statute is very broad and includes other items like stamps, seals, badges, other tokens, trademarks, etc.

Other documents like trademarks, graphical images, access cards or devices or any item that signifies something of value like a property deed or a document transferring ownership from one person to another all qualify.

With an understanding that these items can be forged, we now need to look and see what action is taken with these instruments constitutes forgery. Under the statute, the language we need to review is “altered.”

Altered, under A.R.S. 13-2001 is most closely related to changing the instrument in any way. This can include counterfeiting the item, adjusting the instrument, washing the instrument to make it look old or worn down. It can also include changing a number or letter on the item, deleting a portion of the document, scratching the surface to alter the item or taking any action to change it from the original state.

The statute is very broad, and also includes transposing items from on documents to another or connecting two parts from two different documents. For example, taking two legitimate documents and combining them into one document that makes the new document illegitimate would constitute “altering.”

Similarly, destroying a document to change its effect is also considered altering. 

When being charged with forgery, it is critically important to understand the definitions that apply under the forgery statute.

If the conduct that is alleged to be “forgery” does not meet the underlying definitions, it cannot by law be a forgery.

In other words, if the item the government claims is being forged is not considered a written instrument or defined as such under the law, it does not meet the definition. If there is an alternate definition of the item the government claims was forged, it may be able to be brought outside the definition and therefore outside the forgery law.

Similarly, if a document cannot be considered to be “altered” because the change to the item or the instrument does not wall within the confines of the law, it will not meet the forgery statute requirements.

Defense lawyers in forgery cases are constantly looking at definitions and the conduct the government claims the person being charged committed in order to see they truly meet the definitions under the law. In these types of cases, we simply cannot take the government’s word for it that the conduct meets the statutory requirements. Understanding the law, including the broad definitions, is critical to success.