The Future Of Forgery Laws
The highly influential Model Penal Code recommended that the technical restrictions on forgery laws be abolished and that both uttering and counterfeiting be consolidated with forgery (Model Penal Code, 1962, § 224.1; 1960, commentary on § 224.1). The Code defined forgery with specificity and included unauthorized alteration of a writing. It also included the making, completing, executing, authenticating, issuing, or transferring of a writing that misrepresents its time, place, or sequence of execution, or its authority, or that purports to be a copy of which there was no genuine original. Writing was defined broadly to include all forms of recording information, money, credit cards, trademarks, and "other symbols of value, right, privilege, or identification." The "purpose to defraud or injure anyone" was retained as an element. The offense would be graded: forgery of money, scamps, and other instruments issued by the government or representing interests in property would be a serious felony; forgery of a will, deed, contract, or other writing having legal efficacy would be a less serious felony; and any other type of forgery would be a misdemeanor. In a separate provision, the Code recommended punishing as a misdemeanor the fraudulent simulation of objects, such as art forgery, which creates a false appearance of "value because of antiquity, rarity, source, or authorship" (1962. § 224.2). The United States National Commission on Reform of Federal Criminal Laws made a similar set of recommendations in 1971 (§ 1751).
By 1980, at least twenty-three states had followed this lead in whole or in substantial part (Model Penal Code, 1980, commentary on § 224.1). Although some jurisdictions will undoubtedly retain a distinction between forgery and counterfeiting, more are likely to adopt the Model Penal Code's approach.