Since counterfeiting money is a federal crime, some people assume that any charges would be brought by the federal government. This tends to only happen in very large cases, however. Each state has its own counterfeiting laws on the books that deal with the replication of United States currency, and these will usually be applied to smaller-scale cases.
Each state is a little different in the exact wording of its laws and in potential punishments. So if you are charged with this crime in Minnesota, what should you expect? Charges for counterfeiting currency are covered by state statute 609.632, but the wording can be tricky to understand in some places. We’ll attempt to help simplify and clarify the law with today’s post.
WHAT EXACTLY CAN YOU BE CHARGED FOR?
Manufacturing bills is of course the primary counterfeiting charge. It is also possible to be charged for intent to defraud by means of possessing tools and materials known to be used for counterfeiting, however, even if no actual bills were produced or can be located. This includes things like plates, fabrics meant to match the composition and texture of bills, specialized software and images or templates on a computer.
It is also possible to be charged for possessing counterfeit bills. A key here is that intent to defraud has to be shown by the prosecution. This gives you some amount of legal protection if you unknowingly receive some counterfeit bills in change from a store or restaurant.
These laws are not limited to just the dollar bills. They also apply to counterfeiting of Postal Service money orders, Federal Reserve notes or any other form of securities issued by the government such as bonds. A general rule of thumb is that if it’s issued by a government agency and can be used to pay for things, these laws apply to it.
WHAT ARE THE PENALTIES IN MINNESOTA FOR COUNTERFEITING?
Punishment for actual manufacturing of bills or for possession of counterfeiting materials with intent to defraud is pretty simple in Minnesota. The state hands down a sentence of up to 25 years, a fine of up to $100,000, or both. Judges have the power to adjust the sentence based on the severity of the crime, but in theory, the broad wording of the law allows for the maximum sentence for manufacturing as little as one bill.
Punishment for possession and utterance (attempted use) of counterfeit bills is a little more nuanced. The harshest penalty of up to 25 years of incarceration and a fine of up to $100,000 is only applied when either the value of the goods and services the counterfeiter attempted to obtain or the total value of fake currency they possess is greater than $35,000. If the value is between $5,000 and $35,000, the maximum sentence is 10 years and the maximum fine is $20,000. If the values is between $1,000 and $5,000, the maximum sentence is five years and the maximum fine is $10,000.
For cases in which the value of the counterfeit money produced or the goods and services obtained with it is lower than $1,000, the maximum sentence is one year and the maximum fine is $3,000. This only applies if the individual has not been convicted of a similar crime within the past five years, however; if they have, the punishments escalate to the $1,000-$5,000 tier.
Just because a counterfeiting case is heard in state court does not mean it is not serious and will not carry penalties that can ruin your life. If you are charged with such a crime, you need the skills of an experienced and qualified defense attorney. Contact us at any time for more information and to set up an initial consultation.