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Not-So-Funny Money: Counterfeit Bills

With great fanfare, the U.S. Treasury just introduced a brand-new design of the $100 bill. Containing the latest in 3-D graphics and color-changing technology, it’s meant to deter counterfeiters. The current bills aren’t that easy to counterfeit, but the government has to keep a step ahead of newer technologies that allow for more precise photocopying.

Counterfeiting and its penalties

Counterfeiting is almost always prosecuted in federal court. The law states that a person who counterfeits any money (bills, coins or bonds) of the United States with intent to defraud is subject to a fine and imprisonment of up to 20 years. A related law states that the mere possession of plates used to make counterfeit bills with intent to defraud is punishable by up to 25 years in prison.

You can be prosecuted for a number of related acts:

  • Possession of counterfeit bills
  • Manufacturing of counterfeit bills
  • Trafficking in counterfeit bills
  • Possession of tools to produce counterfeit bills
  • Conspiracy to do any of these things

The actual sentences convicted counterfeiters receive are based on the federal sentencing guidelines. A counterfeiting conviction could result in four to 10 months in jail, but the sentence might go higher depending on the amount of counterfeit cash involved. Possession of counterfeiting plates increases the sentence up to 18 to 24 months in federal prison.

Defenses to allegations of counterfeiting

These are extremely difficult charges to defend since the evidence is usually quite convincing. Possible defenses include:

  • Lack of intent to defraud
  • Lack of knowledge
  • Obviously fake or crudely made bills that don’t qualify as “counterfeits”   

In federal court, the ability to negotiate and defend a counterfeiting case is vital. Contact the attorneys at the Ohio criminal defense firm of Yavitch & Palmer Co., LPA, who have years of experience defending clients in federal court and navigating the federal sentencing guidelines.

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