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Massachusetts G.L. c. 267 § 1: Forgery and Counterfeiting Certificate and Other Writings

The criminal offense of forgery or counterfeiting is governed by Massachusetts General Laws chapter 267 section 1 and makes it a crime to falsify, alter, forge or counterfeit certain types of legal documents.

The statute provides that:

Whoever, with intent to injure or defraud, falsely makes, alters, forges or counterfeits a public record, or a certificate, return or attestation of a clerk or register of a court, public register, notary public, justice of the peace, town clerk or any other public officer, in relation to a matter wherein such certificate, return or attestation may be received as legal proof; or a charter, deed, will, testament, bond or writing obligatory, power of attorney, policy of insurance, bill of lading, bill of exchange or promissory note; or an order, acquittance or discharge for money or other property or a credit card or an instrument described as a United States Dollar Traveller's Check or Cheque, purchased from a bank or other financially responsible institution, the purpose of which is a source of ready money on cashing the instrument without identification other than the signature of the purchaser; or an acceptance of a bill of exchange, or an endorsement or assignment of a bill of exchange or promissory note for the payment of money; or an accountable receipt for money, goods or other property; or a stock certificate, or any evidence or muniment of title to property; or a certificate of title, duplicate certificate of title, certificate issued in place of a duplicate certificate, the registration book, entry book, or any indexes provided for by chapter one hundred and eighty-five, or the docket of the recorder; shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for not more than ten years or in jail for not more than two years.

In order to be convicted under this statute the Commonwealth must prove several elements beyond a reasonable doubt.

  1. The Defendant falsified or altered one or more significant parts of the document in question; or counterfeited the document in question to make it appear genuine;
  2. The Defendant did so with the intent to injure or defraud another;

The offense of forgery or counterfeiting under this statute deals primarily with the document itself rather then the contents of the document; this offense can be committed in three different ways:

  1. Counterfeiting or producing what appears to be a genuine legal document but is in fact fake;
  2. Falsely filling in one or more important parts of a genuine legal document, such as forging someone else’s signature; or similarly,
  3. Altering in a significant way one or more parts of a genuine document, such as changing the amount on a check.

Some examples of legal documents governed by this statute include, but are not limited to: public records, deeds, wills, promissory notes, bills of sale, bonds, stock certificates, title certificates, bank notes, checks.


The potential punishment for the crime of forgery or counterfeiting under G.L. c. 267 section 1 is imprisonment in the state prison for not more than 10 years or imprisonment in the house of correction for not more than 2 years.

This type of offense may also require payment of restitution for any monies lost or injury sustained as a result of the fraud induced by the defendant.


Whether or not the district court has final jurisdiction, and whether or not the crime is properly charged under this section may depend on the types of documents in question that have been forged or counterfeited.

Other potential defenses under this section may include a claim of authority and a lack of the requisite intent to injure or defraud.

Related Offenses:

  1. M.G.L. c. 267 § 5 – Uttering False or Forged Records, Deeds or Other Writings
  2. M.G.L. c. 266 § 37E – Identity Fraud

A criminal law attorney experience in defending fraud and other property crimes cases can help you explore your defenses and receive the best possible disposition for such an offense.

Massachusetts Criminal Defense Attorney 617-263-6800

If you or someone you know faces forgery, fraud or other related charges, contact the Law Offices of Stephen Neyman, P.C. Attorney Neyman years of experience in defending clients who have been charged with criminal offenses and will help you achieve the best possible outcome for your case. Call Attorney Neyman’s office at 617-263-6800 or send him an e-mail today.

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