Your boyfriend asked you to cash a check for him. He signed the check over to you, and you endorsed it at the bank. It turned out the check was stolen, and you are now facing criminal charges.

Can you be convicted if you didn’t know the check was a fraud? What can you do?

In Illinois, forgery includes when a person knowingly and with intent to defraud “makes a false document or alters any document to make it false and that document is apparently capable of defrauding another” (720 Illinois Compiled Statutes 5/17-3). Your boyfriend clearly has broken the law. He made the check knowing it was false with the intent of defrauding the bank—and maybe even yourself.

But what about you? All you did was sign. Are you now facing conviction for 2 to 5 years in jail for a Class 3 felony?

Under Illinois law simply endorsing a check is enough to make or alter a document. The key element is whether the forgery “was made for the purpose of and is capable of defrauding.” People v Brown. Your endorsing the check made it capable of defrauding, since without the endorsement, the bank might not have cashed it.

Is your situation hopeless? Not necessarily. If you are charged with forgery, you should contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. As with other criminal offenses, the state must prove you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The fact you cashed the check without knowing it was false or having an intent to defraud the bank may be a defense.

Forgery is not limited to bad checks. It can include falsifying an academic degree or some other document. Forgery also includes 1) issuing or delivering a document that you know is false, 2) possessing an altered document that you intend to deliver, 3) unlawfully using someone else’s digital signature or signature device.

If you have questions about this or another related criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

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