UCMJ Article 123: Forgery
A Service Member of the United States Armed Forces who forges any legally binding signature or alters any legally binding document with the intent to defraud another person will face charges under Article 123 of the UCMJ.
Your life could very quickly spiral out of control in the following weeks and months as law enforcement investigates your case and your court date is confirmed. Unfortunately, if you do not protect yourself as soon as possible, these inconveniences will be the least of your worries:
- You could face a prison sentence to the tune of 5 years or more. If the government accuses you of multiple specifications of forgery, 5 years could turn into 15 or more.
- Your military career—your ranks and your titles, your pay and your benefits—will disappear overnight. You will be relieved of your duties and face a dishonorable discharge.
- On top of this, you may face federal or state charges which could leave a felony on your record for the rest of your life.
You have fought honorably for your country. Now let us fight for you. Defend yourself against financial fraud allegations by contacting Bilecki & Tipon TODAY.
What Is Article 123 of the UCMJ?
Every article of the UCMJ requires prosecutors to prove beyond a reasonable doubt a handful of critical assumptions—known as elements—to convict you of a crime. Two criminal offenses are defined under Article 123, each with its own set of elements.
(1) Forgery—making or altering
- (a) That the accused falsely made or altered a certain signature or writing;
- (b) That the signature or writing was made of nature which would, if genuine, apparently impose a legal liability on another or change another’s legal rights or liabilities to that person’s prejudice; and
- (c) That the false making or altering was with intent to defraud
- (a) That a certain signature or writing was falsely made or altered;
- (b) That the signature or writing was made of nature which would, if genuine, apparently impose a legal liability on another or change another’s legal rights or liabilities to that person’s prejudice;
- (c) That the accused uttered, offered, issued, or transferred the signature or writing;
- (d) That at such time the accused knew that the signature or writing had been falsely made or altered; and
- (e) That the uttering, offering, issuing or transferring was with the intent to defraud.
Summary of the Elements of Article 123: Two criminal offenses are defined under article 123, and both require prosecutors to prove that the accused knowingly forged a legally binding signature or altered a legally binding document in order to defraud another person.
Under the first offense—making or altering—prosecutors will attempt to show that you forged a signature or altered a document. Under the second offense—uttering—prosecutors will attempt to prove that you knowingly uttered (i.e. cashed in or attempted to cash in on) the forged check or make use of the altered documents.
Military Defense Attorney for Article 123 of the UCMJ: Strategies and Tactics
Courts-martial that involve forgery or other white collar crimes very often have a paper trail and other evidence which prosecutors will attempt to use to prove their case against the alleged offender. With the right strategy and narrative, however, an experienced defense attorney can overcome this evidence and secure the best possible outcome in your case.
We may begin by reviewing a few key aspects of your alleged financial fraud offense which includes, but isn’t limited to:
- A defense investigation into the paper trail. Can these forged documents be directly connected to the accused, or could someone else have forged them? How did law enforcement handle the paper trail evidence, and did they make any mistakes? Would the defense benefit from the hiring of a third party forensic expert to review the paper trail as well?
- An assessment of prior motives. Did the accused stand gain anything from the forged check or altered documents? Did the accused even know the check or documents had been forged? Even if the forged check or altered document were found in the possession of the accused, did he or she truly intend to use them?
- A review of the extent of the forgery. What did the accused stand to gain from the forged checks or altered documents? Was it of a monetary value or to avoid a duty of some kind? Is there evidence that the accused has done this before? If this was a once-off forgery, was the offense grave enough to warrant a court-martial, or can the case be dropped and punishment assessed in another fashion?
Bilecki & Tipon has the experience and the resources necessary to defend you against the worst of your fraud allegations. Contact Bilecki & Tipon TODAY for a free consultation into your case.
Experienced Military Defense Lawyers for Article 123 Charges
Bilecki & Tipon has protecting service members from allegations of forgery. Our attorneys have extensive financial backgrounds and have defended service members against unscrupulous prosecutors and heavy-handed government charges countless times.
Bilecki & Tipon will help you fight back against charges under Article 123: Forgery
Frequently Asked Questions About Article 123
What Is the Maximum Possible Punishment for Article 123: Forgery?
Article 123 provides the following maximum punishment for any service member found guilty of forging a check or altering any document:
- Reduction to E-1
- Forfeiture of all pay and allowances
- Confinement for 5 years
- Dishonorable discharge
How Does the Government Define Altering a Document?
According to the Manual for Court Martial, alterations must show that a Service Member increased, diminished, or discharged an obligation, either for himself or for another service member.
A related example under Article 123:
“Examples of material alterations in the case of a promissory note are changing the date, amount, or place of payment. If a genuine writing has been delivered to the accused and while in the accused’s possession is later found to be altered, it may be inferred that the writing was altered by the accused.”