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Can I go to jail for cashing stolen and forged checks by someone else with out knowing they were fake?

Pittsburgh, PA |

I cashed I few checks for a family member who said they would pass in a couple days who ended up lying to me they were stolen and forged checks i didnt think much of it cuz its suppose to be family and now because i endorsed them and cashed i being threaten with 3 chrages of felonly fruadry or something like that is that possible... looking to find a lawyer... iv never been in trouble before

Attorney Answers 3


  1. The short answers "no". Every crime, except strict liability crimes, require both a criminal intent and action. If you truly were not aware they were forgeries, you should be fine. However, circumstances surrounding their writing, passing and investigation made lead authorities to believe otherwise. You should hire competent counsel immediately to discuss your case. Have them go to the police about what occurred. Do to try to talk your own way out of this. Invariably, you will talk your way into a crime instead of out of one.

    Good Luck!

    There is no attorney client relationship created by this email. This response is provided for information purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice upon which one should rely for the purposes of litigation, establishing a course of conduct, or representation.


  2. I disagree with Attorney Engle. If charged with forgery, you absolutely can be incarcerated. All crimes are graded into one of three categories. A felony of the third degree carries a maximum period of incarceration of 7 years and will remain on your record. Consult with and retain an attorney. If you cannot afford one, you should apply for a public defender.


  3. You may be liable for the money, but if you were unaware of the forgery, then you cannot be charged with the forgery.

    By endorsing a check over to someone, it is like handing them cash, the check is then able to be turned into cash, based on your promise through your signature. This is why a check is called a negotiable instrument, because you can promise to pay it and negotiate deals with it, even when it isn't yours. Thus by signing it, you may have become liable for the money. There is no criminal intent required for this part of the issue- you are probably liable for the money on the checks you endorsed.

    Now, forgery is a different story. Forgery and stolen checks requires that you be aware of the false signature and the theft in order to be charged with it. In that statement, Mr. Engle is correct, you must have criminal intent to be convicted of forgery. The Commonwealth will have to prove that you had criminal intent at trial, but there's a lot that goes on between now and a criminal trial. If you do get charged, you need to seek legal advice. Criminal defense lawyers often give free consults, and you can apply for a public defender if you have a low income.

    Now, I'm a little confused by what you mean when you say you didn't think much of it. If you didn't think much of the fact that your family member was a known thief and that he/she never gets legitimate checks, then you could be being willfully blind. Those who are willfully blind ignore obviously criminal situations, in an attempt not to be an accomplice. The police can still charge the person with being an accomplice. Willful blindness is a bit of a complicated concept, but basically, if you pretend you don't know about a crime as you watch it being committed, that won't let you off the hook when the police show up at your door.

    Best of luck,

    Shannon K. McDonald