What is Forgery in South Carolina?

by | Aug 18, 2018 | Criminal Defense |

When you say, “forgery,” most people will imagine a person stealing someone’s checkbook and then signing the owner’s name to cash a check…

That’s forgery. But, sometimes people are surprised to find that forgery in SC covers much more than a forged signature on a check.

For example, if someone were to create a fake diploma from a university, that would be forgery under SC law…

Faking a Diploma is a Crime

Melissa Howard, a candidate for the Florida state House of Representatives, listed a degree from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio on her candidate biography. A local news outlet, after contacting the university, reported that she did not have a degree as she claimed.

The candidate then posted pictures on her Facebook page of herself posing with a framed diploma from the university as well as a partial college transcript and released a statement saying she was not focused on “fake news.”

She later withdrew from the House race after the university’s legal counsel confirmed that the diploma was a fake and that she had never received a degree… is that the end of the story, though?

Florida law makes it a crime to misrepresent a person’s status with a university by “by falsely making, altering, simulating, or forging a document, degree, certificate, diploma, award, record, letter, transcript, form, or other paper.”

Would similar conduct be criminal if it happened in South Carolina?

South Carolina Forgery Laws

South Carolina’s forgery laws cover much more than a fake signature on a stolen check – they cover the creation of fake documents, alteration of documents, or even the publishing of a faked document that someone else created.

Forgery applies to “instruments of writing,” which could include:

  • University diplomas;
  • Checks;
  • Contracts;
  • Letters;
  • Community service hours for PTI;
  • A land plats or records; or
  • Any other written document.

What can’t you do with an “instrument of writing?”

  • Falsely make;
  • Forge;
  • Counterfeit;
  • Alter;
  • Change; or
  • Deface.

Forgery covers a wide range of conduct dealing with “instruments of writing” in addition to faking a signature…

What Does it Mean to “Publish” or “Utter” a Document?

You can be charged with forgery even if you didn’t create or sign the fake document – SC’s forgery laws also make it a crime to “publish” or “utter” a forged document.

If you take a check, for example, that someone else forged, and you try to cash it or use it as payment, you can be arrested and charged with forgery as if you had created the document yourself…

“Willfully Act or Assist”

Even if you don’t create or present the document yourself, you can still be arrested and charged with forgery if you “willfully acted or assisted” in the creation or presentation of the document with an intent to defraud someone.

What Are the Penalties for Forgery in SC?

If someone is convicted of forgery in SC, the potential penalties depend on the dollar value of the forgery:

  • More than $10,000 carries up to ten years in prison;
  • Less than $10,000 carries up to five years in prison; and
  • No dollar value carries as much as three years in prison.

SC Forgery Defense Lawyers in Myrtle Beach, SC

The SC criminal defense lawyers at Coastal Law have years of experience defending against allegations of forgery and other financial crimes in Horry County.

If you’ve been charged with a crime in SC, call now at (843) 488-5000 or send us an email to discuss your case today.

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Contact Coastal Law to discuss your situation.

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Myrtle Beach, SC 29577


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Conway, SC 29526


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Charleston, SC 29401


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Columbia, SC 29201


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