Information on crimes that are commonly charged in Michigan. If you need legal assistance, please contact a lawyer.
Statute: MCL 750.249
Crime Group: Property
Sentence Class: E
Minimum Sentence: 0 Months
Maximum Sentence1: 168 Months (14 Years)
Jury Instructions: MCJI2d 28.2
Sex Offender Registration Required: No
(1) A person who utters and publishes as true a false, forged, altered, or counterfeit record, instrument, or other writing listed in section 248 knowing it to be false, altered, forged, or counterfeit with intent to injure or defraud is guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than 14 years.
(2) This section does not apply to a scrivener’s error.
[The documents in section 248: documents affecting interest in real property: mortgage, power or letter of attorney, any other document that affects an interest in real property, or even checks.]
The crime of “Uttering and Publishing a Forgery” occurs when someone creates a fake document—such as a check, deed, or will—and then tries to pass it off as legitimate to defraud someone. This is a fairly common crime in Michigan. In order to convict on this charge, the prosecutor must prove all elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. A conviction of this charge can only occur if the prosecution proves: first, that the document in question was either false, altered, counterfeited; second, that the defendant represented, either by words or actions or both, that the document was genuine or true; third, that when the defendant did this (s)he knew the document was altered, forged, and/or counterfeited; finally, that when the defendant did this (s)he intended to defraud or cheat someone.
The most frequent issue at trial will be the knowledge and intent of the defendant. Both “knowledge” and “intent” must be shown. It is not enough to have simply known the document to be altered, forged, or counterfeit; the defendant must have intended to defraud or cheat another person. For instance, a defendant who gives such a document to someone but tells the person the document is not valid has not defrauded anyone and is not guilty of this charge.
Prosecutors will sometimes allow a defendant to plea guilty to an Attempt to Commit Uttering and Publishing a Forgery. A plea to this lesser crime lowers the maximum sentence from 14 years to 7 years.
In some cases, a defendant who is between the ages of 17 and 21 (or between 21 and 24 years of age with approval from the prosecutor) may be eligible for sentencing under the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act (“HYTA”, MCL 762.11). HYTA is a deferred sentencing program that recognizes that when people are young, they often make stupid mistakes that should not haunt them for the rest of their lives. If a defendant is sentenced under HYTA, the court allows the defendant to offer a guilty plea, but takes the plea “under advisement” without entering it as a conviction. The court will then place the defendant on probation for a term set by the court. A defendant who successfully completes the probation will have all charges dropped and no public record of the offense will remain. However, a defendant who does not successfully complete the HYTA probation will have his/her probation revoked, the conviction will be entered, and a new (usually harsher) sentence will be imposed without a trial. HYTA status may be granted by a judge as many times as the judge wants; there is no “one per lifetime” limitation (although many judges do have a “one HYTA” policy).
A defendant convicted under this statute will typically be sentenced according to the Michigan sentencing guidelines. Because these guidelines consider both the nature of the current crime and the past record of the defendant—and because the guidelines are “advisory only” and judges are not required to follow them—it is impossible to predict a likely sentence without taking a look at the specific facts of a defendant’s case and reviewing the past record of a defendant, and even then such predictions are an “educated guess” at best.
1Maximum sentence shown is for a first-time felony offender. Prior felonies make a defendant liable for “Habitual Offender” (“HO”) sentencing enhancement. Thus, for a defendant with one prior felony or attempted felony (“HO2”), the maximum sentence raises to 252 months (21 years); for a defendant with two prior felonies or attempted felonies (“HO3”), the maximum sentence raises to 336 months (28 years); and a defendant with three or more prior felonies or attempted felonies (“HO4”) faces a maximum sentence of life.
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