What is Possession of a Forgery Device in Arizona?
Possessing a forgery device is criminalized in Arizona under A.R.S. 13-2003. This law makes it illegal for a person to merely possess certain items that can be used to commit forgery. The State does not have to prove the person actually used the forgery device to create fake documents, fake currency, or other forged items. But the State does need to prove that a person possessed these items knowing what they were and intending to use them to commit forgery.
A.R.S. § 13-2003 Defined
Under the forgery device statute,
A person commits criminal possession of a forgery device if the person either:
- Makes or possesses with knowledge of its character and intent to commit fraud any plate, die, or other device apparatus, equipment, software, access device, article, material, good, property or supply specifically designed or adapted for use in forging written instruments. Class 6 felony.
- Makes or possesses any device, apparatus, equipment, software, access device, article, material, good, property or supply adaptable for use in forging written instruments with intent to use it or aid or permit another to use it for purpose of forgery. Class 5 felony.
The possession of a forgery device is either a class 5 or a class 6 felony depending on which part of the statute a person has violated.
Example: In State v. Mynatt, the defendant was convicted of forgery and possession of a forgery device for possessing a fake temporary paper driver's license, as well as a laptop, a printer, and a scanner that were used to make the fake ID. No. 1 CA-CR 17-0682, at *3 (Ariz. Ct. App. Sep. 25, 2018).
Important Definitions to Understanding the Forgery Device Statute
ARS 13-2003 contains some specific legal terms that are not necessarily common in everyday speech, and they require some explanation. Definitions to these terms are provided by ARS 13-2001.
- This means essentially anything that has writing on it. It can be a "paper, document, or other instrument that contains written or printed matter or its equivalent."
- Examples: A driver's license, check, passport, or anything else with writing.
- Any card, token, code, account number, electronic serial number, mobile or personal identification number, password, encryption key, or other means of account access.
Penalties for Possession of a Forgery Device
The possible punishment for possession of a forgery device depends on whether it has been charged as a class 6 felony or a class 5 felony. How the crime is charged will depend on which portion of the statute a person is accused of violating.
If possession of a forgery device is charged as a class 6 felony, the potential punishment is:
- For a first-time offense: .33 to 2 years in prison
- If the defendant has one prior felony: .75 to 2.75 years
- If the defendant has two prior felonies: 2.25 to 5.75 years
If possession of a forgery device is charged as a class 5 felony, the potential punishment is:
- For a first-time offender: .5 to 2.5 years in prison
- If the defendant has one prior felony: 1 to 3.75 years
- If the defendant has two prior felonies: 3 to 7.5 years
Defenses to Possession of a Forgery Device
- Did not "know its character" or "intend to defraud": Possession of a forgery device as a class 6 felony require the state show that the person who possessed the device know what it was and intended to use it to defraud. A careful analysis of a person's case may reveal that they did not have the required knowledge (are that at least that the state cannot prove the required knowledge beyond a reasonable doubt) to prove the possession was knowing. It is not enough for the state to show that person merely knowingly possessed the device; the state must also prove that the person knew what the device was and what it would be used for.
Example: A person is charged with possession of a forgery device for possessing a certain color dye that criminals commonly use to make fake dollar bills. However, the dye also has other legitimate uses that are not illegal. It is not sufficient for the prosecutor to show that the person knowingly possessed the dye. The prosecution must also show that the defendant possessed the dye with the intent to commit a forgery. Showing this state of mind can be difficult or impossible without other evidence.
How Salwin Law Can Help You
If you've been charged with possession of a forgery device, a skilled criminal defense attorney at the Salwin Law Group can help you with your case today. Stewart Salwin provides free consultations on criminal charges. Call today to see how we can help you get the best possible defense to your charges.
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