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Possessing Counterfeit Money & Currency in New York State: Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the First Degree (NY PL 170.30) & Your NY Criminal Defense

You go into a restaurant in Manhattan or store in Brooklyn and pay with cash. It turns out, one of the $20 or $100 dollar bills is fake and a forgery. In the alternative, you are arrested for an unrelated charge in Queens and when you are searched, the police recover numerous counterfeit $50 dollar bills. Unfortunately, you find yourself under arrest and charged with a crime and in need of a New York criminal defense lawyer experienced in counterfeit money crimes, Forgery and Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument. As you wrap your head around the turn of events you begin to wonder about the crimes you may now face, what the potential punishments are and what are your defenses.

New York Crimes for Possessing Counterfeit Money

In New York State, one may be charged with a few different crimes for possession of counterfeit currency. The most likely offense, and the one we will address in this entry, is the felony of Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the First Degree pursuant to New York Penal Law section 170.30 (NY PL 170.30).

In general, one is guilty of NY PL 170.30 as it applies to counterfeit money when one possesses a written instrument which purports to be money with the knowledge that the currency is forged (not real) and with the intent to defraud another person with that counterfeit money.

Potential Punishment for Possessing Counterfeit Money

If one is convicted of Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the First Degree in New York, one faces up to 15 years in state prison. If one has no prior criminal record there is no mandatory term of incarceration, but the maximum term is 5 to 15 years. If one is a predicate felon (generally has a prior felony in the last ten years), then one faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 3 to 6 years and a maximum sentence of 7.5 to 15 years in prison.

Potential Criminal Defense to NY PL 170.30 as it Relates to Counterfeit Currency

While this entry should not serve as advice or guidance for your particular matter, the following are some ideas or issues that can be discussed with your New York criminal defense attorney if you determine it is relevant and worthy to do so.

(1) A key element to this offense is the element of knowledge. You must know the instrument (currency) is fake or forged. Certainly, your lack of knowledge may be more believable to the prosecution or a jury if the counterfeit bill is only one or a couple out of many in your possession as opposed to each and every bill. It may also be difficult for the prosecution to prove the element of knowledge beyond a reasonable doubt depending on the quality of the alleged counterfeits. For example if you have two fake $20s amongst fifteen real $20s and they look good, how could you have know it was fake (that is an argument that needs a much deeper analysis and explanation)? Did you only try to pass those fake $20s and hold onto the real ones? Do you have a job or career that would give you access to that money? Do you have proof that you went to a bank or ATM? In the alternative, if the alleged counterfeits were so bad and would not likely fool anyone, how will the prosecution prove you had an intent to defraud?

(2) Another issue is the search of your person. What was the basis of your stop? Did the police have grounds to search you and recover the allegedly fake currency? This defense is applicable to many crimes beyond Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the First Degree as it relates to counterfeit money.

(3) Did you make any statements? If so, can you corroborate your claims? In the alternative, if your statement was not exculpatory, did you inculpate yourself by making some form of an admission? If you made an admission, was it the product of a custodial interrogation and, if so, were you advised of your rights?

The above defenses are very general and merely gloss over what would typically require an in depth analysis in each and every case. For further information on New York White Collar Crimes as well as New York Fraud Related Offenses, please review Crotty Saland’s New York criminal lawyer blog (NewYorkCriminalLawyerblog.Com) or review the the NY White Collar Crime section and subsections of the website.

Jeremy Saland and Elizabeth Crotty both served as prosecutors under Robert Morgenthau in the Manhattan District Attorneys office prior to starting the New York criminal defense firm. Crotty Saland PC represents clients in all criminal matters throughout the New York City region.

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