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Criminal Simulation vs. Forgery in Tennessee

There are two types of fraud in Tennessee, referred to as criminal simulation and forgery. These acts often include financial documents and the intent to defraud another person. In this blog, we will discuss in more detail the elements of a criminal simulation charge and forgery offense, as well as ways to defend against these accusations.

What Constitutes Criminal Simulation?

In Tennessee, criminal simulation refers to the intent to defraud or injure another to get money or property that was not intended for the alleged offender or take legal action that the offender is not authorized to do, like transfer property. Note that “injury” in this definition refers to a loss of money or other legal or financial injury.

An act of criminal simulation occurs when a person with intent to defraud or harm:

  • makes or alters an object so that is appears to have value because of its age, rarity, source, or authorship it doesn't have;
  • possesses such an object with intent to sell, pass, or otherwise utter; or
  • authenticates or certifies such an object as genuine or different from what it actually is.

Be aware that it is also criminal simulation for a person, with knowledge of its character, to possess:

  • any machinery designed to produce instruments reporting to be a debit or credit card of an issuer who didn't consent to the preparation of the card; or
  • any instrument designed, adapted, or used for the commission of any theft of property or services by fraudulent means.

What Is Considered a Forgery Crime in Tennessee?

Similar to criminal simulation, forgery also addresses fraudulently altering something, though it specifically involves a written instrument. The definition may vary depending on the jurisdiction, but forgery is generally defined as making, altering, or signing a written document in order to deceive someone, which is illegal. Such written items include any document, as well as coins, badges, credit cards, and seals. Note that both forgery and criminal simulation require the intent to defraud or harm, which means if someone accidentally or unknowingly commits an act addressed in these statutes, they are not technically violating the law.

Under Tennessee law, to forge means to:

  • make, sign, or alter any written document by signing another person’s name, by altering the time or place of signature, or in order to pass off the writing as a copy of an original that does not exist;
  • make false entries in records or books;
  • use, present, or transfer a forged item (also known as “uttering” a forged instrument);
  • possess a forged instrument with the intent to utter it.

Common examples of forgery include:

  • signing another person’s name on a check;
  • altering the amount on a check without permission;
  • cashing a forged check at a bank;
  • creating a fake deed or other real estate document;
  • altering a financial document such as a promissory note; and
  • using a forged instrument or document to obtain or transfer property or money.

Penalties and Sentencing

The charges for forgery and criminal simulation will not be less than a Class E felony. The authorized penalties for felonies in general are:

  • Class A felony – imprisonment for 15-60 years and up to $50,000 in fines.
  • Class B felony – imprisonment for 8-30 years and up to $25,000 in fines.
  • Class C felony – imprisonment for 3-15 years and up to $10,000 in fines.
  • Class D felony – imprisonment for 2-12 years and up to $5,000 in fines.
  • Class E felony – imprisonment for 1-6 years and up to $3,000 in fines.

A person charged with a forgery crime in Tennessee can argue a few different claims to defend against their charge, such as proving a case of mistaken identity, where they show that they are not the person who actually committed the crime. They could alternatively claim that the crime did not occur, such as if the signature on a document used in a financial transaction was not actually altered and the document does not contain a false signature.

A person charged with forgery can also raise that they were authorized or believed in good faith that they were authorized to sign or alter a document, such as a check or financial contract. This addresses the prosecution’s claim that the defendant acted without consent and with intent to harm.

Note that if the defendant was entitled to collect money from the victim or believed they were so entitled is not a defense to forgery if the defendant was not authorized to change or create a document or present the item for payment. Similarly, forging a receipt to state a debt was paid in full is a crime even if the debt actually was paid in full.

Seek a Legal Professional for Representation Today!

If you have been accused of an act of criminal simulation or forgery, speak with an attorney immediately to work on your defense. These charges can lead to long, drawn-out legal trials that attempt to look at every detail of the case, as well as examine any of your prior background and financial history. You should not have to fight a fraud charge alone, especially when you believe you have not acted with intent to cause harm or defraud.

Let Eldridge and Cravens, PC defend your case. Schedule your free consultation today!