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Overview Of Federal Counterfeiting Laws


When you think of counterfeiting, your mind might turn to bogus art, faux designer handbags, or fake jewelry that someone claims are real to sell for a high price. However, the US criminal code chapter on counterfeiting contains a much more detailed description of the illegal conduct and items that could lead to charges. In short, the crime consists of the unlawful use of false documents for purposes of defrauding the US government. Depending on the specifics of the case, the penalties for a conviction could lead to 25 years in federal prison and a maximum fine of $250,000.

Beyond this basic description of the offense, there are many additional details about counterfeiting offenses. Though you should trust a Fort Lauderdale counterfeiting attorney to handle the essential tasks, you might better understand this crime by reviewing the materials and types of conduct the laws cover.

Items Covered by Counterfeiting Laws 

These statutes specifically focus on the documents, paperwork, and related materials that are exchanged for some official reason. Though a transaction may involve two private parties, the ultimate harm is fraud upon the US government. For instance, when you present counterfeit currency to purchase goods, that bill is backed by the US government – but a fake is worthless and, therefore, fraudulent use of federal property.

In truth, currency is one of the most difficult items to counterfeit because of the microprinting artwork and security threat that the Federal Reserve inserts into bills. Criminal activity related other items could lead to counterfeiting charges, such as:

  • Stock certificates and securities;
  • Patent letters;
  • Postage stamps;
  • Military IDs, permits, and discharge papers;
  • Powers of attorney;
  • Deeds to land; and
  • Any document purportedly created by the federal government. 

Crimes Involving Counterfeited Materials 

Half of understanding this offense is knowing what items are subject to counterfeit laws, while another primary factor is the actions a person takes with respect to them. The federal law is clear that counterfeiting is a specific intent crime, so the prosecutor must prove that the defendant acted with the “intent to defraud” the US government. The statute makes it illegal to falsely make, forge, or alter any of the above materials. However, additional acts could lead to counterfeiting charges, including:

  • Possession of items that you know to be fakes;
  • “Uttering” a counterfeit item, which means passing, presenting, or negotiating it as being legitimate;
  • Possessing the tools or machinery for producing counterfeited items;
  • Piecing together parts of notes, bills, or other negotiable instruments
  • Using slugs as currency, which means even using a wooden nickel in a soda machine could constitute a criminal offense. 

Rely on a Florida Federal Crimes Defense Lawyer for Legal Help 

As you might expect after reviewing the above, an arrest for counterfeiting is often preceded by a lengthy investigation by officials seeking enough information to ensure a conviction. You have rights during pre-arrest stages, so exercise them by contacting defense attorney Kevin J. Kulik. You can reach our Fort Lauderdale office to schedule a consultation by calling 954-761-9411 or visiting our website.



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