The crime of forgery generally refers to the making of a fake document, the changing of an existing document, or the making of a signature without authorization.
Elements of Forgery
Forgery involves a false document, signature, or other imitation of an object of value used with the intent to deceive another. Those who commit forgery are often charged with the crime of fraud. Documents that can be the object of forgery include contracts, identification cards, and legal certificates. Most states require that forgery be done with the intent to commit fraud or theft/larceny.
The most common form of forgery is signing someone else's name to a check, but objects, data and documents can also be forged. Legal contracts, historical papers, art objects, diplomas, licenses, certificates and identification cards can be forged. Currency and consumer goods can also be forged, but that crime is usually referred to as counterfeiting.
Forgery Requires Deception
In most jurisdictions, the crime of forgery is not charged unless the forgery is done with intent to deceive or the attempt to commit fraud or larceny. For instance, works of arts can be copied or replicated without any crime being committed unless someone attempted to sell or represent the copies as originals. Then the copies would become illegal forgeries.
Forgery can also involve the creation of fake or fraudulent documents. For example, it can involve photocopying a person’s signature and then artificially placing it on a document without their knowledge or consent.
Perhaps the most famous case of forgery in the twentieth century took place in 1983 with the "discovery" of the Hitler diaries. The diaries supposedly contained passages written by German dictator Adolf Hitler between 1932 and 1945.