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Counterfeit and Fake COVID-19 Vaccination Cards: Potential New York Criminal Charges

Maybe you stole a handful of COVID-19 vaccine cards when you got your Moderna shot. Maybe you made some fake vaccination cards and created a totally fraudulent one that looks like the real deal when you got your first and only Pfizer injection. You don’t need a criminal defense attorney to brainstorm the countless ways you could make a few dollars selling your wares or how you could use one of these counterfeit vaccination documents to satisfy an employer’s mandate, gain entrance into some type of venue, or demonstrate your “jab” status wherever it may be required. For that matter, if you want to dupe the State of New York and get yourself an Excelsior pass based on a Johnson and Johnson vaccine you never received, there is no doubt a way to handle that too. The reality, however, is if you get arrested in New York City’s Manhattan, Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens, or Staten Island, or the police charge you in Westchester’s White Plains, Rockland’s New City, or anywhere from Putnam to Dutchess and beyond for a counterfeit COVID vaccination card, you should expect that the local District Attorney is going to take the matter quite seriously. Don’t believe me? Go ahead and use the ole’ Google and see for yourself.

Potential Criminal Charges: NY Penal Law 170.10, 170.25, 175.10 & 175.35

Prosecutors have discretion on the offenses they can charge in a felony complaint. That said, there are certain criminal offenses you would likely face should the NYPD or other police agency place you under arrest. Keep in mind, you may face indictment for different crimes depending on many factors including, for example, whether you are the maker of the card, you possess the written instrument, or you actually use it.

Forgery & Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument

The top two, or most serious charges, will likely be either Second Degree Forgery, pursuant to New York Penal Law 170.10, or Second Degree Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument, pursuant to New York Penal Law 170.25. Thought the title of these sections speak for themselves, the creator of the counterfeit documents would face the former while the person who actually has it would find him or herself charged with the latter. Whether a judge sentences you to the maximum or allows for probation on these class “D” felonies, you will face up to 2 1/3 to 7 years in prison for each card you made or possessed.

Falsifying Business Records & Offering a False Instrument for Filing

Assuming you did more than merely make or possess the contraband, you could be charged with or indicted for First Degree Falsifying Business Records, pursuant to New York Penal Law 175.10, and First Degree Offering a False Instrument for Filing, pursuant to New York Penal Law 175.35. Generally, the former statute involves situations where you might provide the false information to an employer or even a public agency who then enters the fictitious data into their records. Somewhat similar, the latter offense is more akin to presenting the actual card to a public agency with the belief it will become part of their records. Class “E” felonies, each of these two crimes carry a potential sentence as great as 1 1/3 to 4 years imprisonment.

For the actual definition of the above crimes, the necessity of knowledge and intent to defraud, and other important elements relating to each statute, review the provided links for further information.

Understanding the Consequences: Beyond Incarceration

It should be relatively comforting to know that while the forger may be more likely to end up with a prison sentence, you may never end up in jail even if convicted of any of these crimes. However, spending time “upstate” is merely a part of the equation. Felony convictions last far longer than any Scarlett Letter as New York does not have an expungement statute. Have a license or certification such as a nurse, architect, attorney, or CPA? Your professional accreditation and ability to practice will certainly be compromised. Compounding matters further, if you are not a citizen, crimes of fraud and deceit will certainly have ramifications your current and future status in the United States.

To learn more about crimes relating to COVID-19 and, including that listed above, review links, and contact the New York criminal lawyers and former Manhattan prosecutors at Crotty Saland PC.

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