Passing or Possessing Counterfeit Obligations of The United States

(18 U.S.C. § 472) What Is Passing or Possessing Counterfeits?

In Southern California Federal Courts, the United States Central District of California, prosecutors will often charge defendants with Passing or Possessing Counterfeit Obligations. The main law that sets out the elements and punishments for this crime is 18 U.S.C. § 472. Anyone who possesses or attempts to pass any United States currency, obligations, or securities with the intent to defraud can be charged with this crime.

What Elements Need to be Established to Charge Someone With Counterfeiting?

The prosecution needs to prove that a defendant knowingly attempted to or successfully passed, uttered, published, sold, or kept in their possession an ‘obligation or other security’ of the United States that was forged, altered, or counterfeited, and that they did so with the intent to defraud.

What is an “obligation or other security?”

An ‘obligation’ is counterfeit if it looks so similar to the real thing that it would deceive an honest and unsuspecting person using ordinary care and observation abilities. It does not need to be so perfect that you need special tools to determine its authenticity. An “obligation or other security” includes, for example, all bonds, bank currencies, federal reserve notes, coupons, treasury notes, gold or silver certificates, certificates of deposit, bills, checks, money orders. 

What does “to pass or utter” mean?

“To pass or utter” means to try to offer the forged or counterfeited item to another person or to a bank with an intent to defraud them. It is not necessary to prove that anything of value was actually received in exchange and the prosecution don’t need to prove that the instrument was even accepted to charge you under this staute.

What Does it Mean to Act with “an Intent to Defraud?”

To act with an “intent to defraud” means to act with a specific intent to cheat someone, generally to cause some financial loss to another or bringing about some financial gain to one’s self. It is not necessary to prove that anyone was actually defrauded as long as it is established that the defendant acted with the intent to defraud or mislead.

Who can be charged with Passing or Possessing Counterfeitbills under 18 U.S.C. § 472?

A person can be charged with Passing or Possessing Counterfeits even if they are not caught during the act of creating the counterfeit items. If you are found with counterfeit notes in your possession, you can be charged with Passing or Possessing Counterfeits. This charge is designed to penalize people for attempting to actually use the counterfeit bills. If you try to pay for items in a store with a counterfeit bill, you could be charged.

Are There Defenses to Charges of Passing or Possessing Counterfeits?

The most important element of the charge is that the defendant acted with an intent to defraud. This can also be the hardest element for prosecutors to prove. If you possessed the forged items for prop-purposes and never intended to pass them, or as part of an art piece, that could be a defense to the charge. Another possible defense would be that you did not know that the bill was counterfeit. The prosecution needs to prove that a defendant knew the note, bill, security, or obligation was counterfeited to be able to convict someone under this statute. Alternatively, the counterfeit could be so bad or so obviously fake that it couldn’t deceive any reasonable person.

What Are Some Related Offenses?

Related offenses include:

  • 18 U.S.C. § 471 – Counterfeiting Obligations of the United States
  • 18 U.S.C. § 473 – Dealing in Counterfeit Obligations of the United States
  • Penal Code § 470 – Forgery
What Are the Penalties for 18 U.S.C. § 472?

Punishment for federal Counterfeiting can result in felony charges punishable by up to 20 years in federal prison and/or a fine up to $250,000. A judge will determine your sentence based on your conduct, criminal history, and whether restitution needs to be ordered to any victim (and how much, if any!).

Criminal Defense for Cases of Federal Passing or Possessing Counterfeits

Possessing or passing counterfeit bills is a serious offense. Federal law in this area can be charged as a felony and the punishment can be incredibly harsh. If you or a loved one have been arrested for or charged with Passing Counterfeits, it is critical that you discuss your case with a knowledgeable federal criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. As a former Deputy District Attorney with over 14 years of prosecutorial experience, Michael Kraut understands how to effectively defend clients charged with White Collar counterfeiting offenses and works hard to ensure his clients receive the best defense possible.

For more information about counterfeiting charges, and to schedule your free consultation, contact Michael Kraut at the Kraut Criminal & DUI Lawyers located at 6255 Sunset Boulevard, Suite 1520, Los Angeles, CA 90028. Mr. Kraut can be reached 24/7 at 888-334-6344 or 323-464-6453.

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