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Massachusetts G.L. c. 267 § 5: Uttering False or Forged Records, Deeds or Other Writings

The criminal offense of uttering false or forged records, deeds or other writings, often referred to simply as “uttering” is governed by Massachusetts General Laws chapter 267 section 5 and makes it a crime to utter or publish as true as false, forged or altered document.

As outlined in the preceding sections of Chapter 267, some examples of legal documents governed by this statute include, orders for money (such as a check), promissory notes, or order for other property. Most commonly prosecutions under this section pertain to uttering false checks.

The statute provides that:

Whoever, with intent to injure or defraud, utters and publishes as true a false, forged or altered record, deed, instrument or other writing mentioned in the four preceding sections, knowing the same to be false, forged or altered, 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 passed or attempted to pass as true and genuine, a check or other order for money, a promissory note, or order for other property;
  2. The document (check, promissory note or order for property) was forged, altered or otherwise falsely made;
  3. The Defendant knew that the document was forged or altered;
  4. The Defendant passed or attempted to pass the document with the intent to defraud someone.

The Commonwealth need not prove that the entire document was altered only that a significant portion of it was altered, such as a forged signature or altering the dollar amount. Similarly the Commonwealth need not prove that the Defendant was successful in the attempt to pass the fraudulent document, only that the Defendant attempted to do so; even if that attempt was unsuccessful the Defendant could be convicted under the statute.


The potential punishment for the crime of uttering under G.L. c. 267 section 5 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 altered.

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:

  • M.G.L. c. 267 § 1 – Forgery and Counterfeiting Certificate and Other Writings
  • 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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