Federal Crime of Counterfeiting Money – 18 U.S.C. § 471
The federal government takes counterfeiting currency seriously and the Secret Service seizes millions of dollars every year in counterfeit money.
The anti-counterfeiting laws passed by Congress state that whoever, with intent to defraud, falsely makes, forges, counterfeits, or alters any obligation or security of the United States can be imprisoned for up to 20 years. There are several federal statutes dealing with the creation, distribution, and use of counterfeit currency, including 18 U.S.C. § 471.
In order for money to be considered counterfeit, it has to be similar enough to the authentic bill that it would confuse an ordinary person. Additionally, the statute prohibits possession of tools that are used in counterfeiting and it's also illegal to buy, sell, exchange, transfer, receive or deliver counterfeit securities.
The federal statutes also apply to counterfeiting that occurs outside of the United States. Also, foreign possession of tools for counterfeiting United States securities is illegal, along with foreign transactions in counterfeit securities. Federal law also prohibits counterfeiting obligations and securities that are issued by foreign banks, if it occurred in the United States.
Counterfeiting typically involves some type of fraud or deceit and a conviction can result in severe penalties, including large fines and federal prison time under the United States Federal Sentencing Guidelines.
If you are under a federal criminal investigation for money counterfeiting or trafficking in counterfeit goods, you need to speak with a federal criminal defense lawyers as early as possible. You will need a defense lawyer with experience litigating criminal cases in the federal court system.
To give readers a better understanding of counterfeiting currency laws, our federal criminal defense attorneys are providing a detailed review below.
Federal Laws on Counterfeit United States Currency
18 U.S.C. § 471 makes it a federal crime to falsely make, alter, or counterfeit any security or obligation that belongs to the United States of America. The obligations and securities covered under the federal statute include currency, treasury notes, reserve notes and bonds.
It should be noted there are several statutes that address the creating, distributing, or using counterfeit currency. These laws make it a crime to:
- Hold, pass, publish, sell, or attempt, any counterfeit currency with the intent to defraud.
- Make, forge, or pass counterfeit foreign currency with the intent to defraud.
- Buy, transfer, receive, or deliver counterfeit currency with intent that it be passed off as a genuine currency.
- Possess imprints, digital images, or impressions made to create counterfeit money, or to sell these items with intent to defraud.
In order for a federal prosecutor to obtain a conviction for counterfeiting United States currency, they must be able to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, you had possession with the specific intent to defraud.
It's also a federal crime to possess equipment and tools used for counterfeit currency, such as an image or plate with the intent to use them for counterfeiting. If you possess these items, you could be convicted of a Class B felony. Counterfeiting coins is also a federal crime that carries up to 15 years in a federal prison if convicted.
Counterfeiting foreign currency is also a federal crime. If you are convicted of counterfeiting foreign currency, you will be facing the same penalties for counterfeiting United States currency. If convicted of possessing equipment and tools intended to be used in counterfeiting foreign currency, you could be fined up to $250,000, and a federal prison sentence up to 25 years.
If you are convicted of using, creating, or dealing in counterfeit currency, the penalties can be severe. The federal judge could sentence you to up to 20 years in a federal prison, along with a huge fine up to $250,000.
Related Federal Statutes for 18 U.S.C. § 471 Counterfeit Currency
18 U.S.C. § 470 – Counterfeit acts outside the United States
18 U.S.C. § 472 – Uttering counterfeit obligations or securities
18 U.S.C. § 473 – Dealing in counterfeit obligations or securities
18 U.S.C. § 474 – Plates, digital, or electronic images for counterfeiting obligations
18 U.S.C. § 476 – Taking impressions of tools used for obligations or securities
18 U.S.C. § 477 – Possession or selling impressions of tools used for securities
18 U.S.C. § 478 – Foreign obligations or securities
18 U.S.C. § 482 – Foreign bank notes
18 U.S.C. § 486 – Uttering coins of gold or other metal
18 U.S.C. § 487 – Making or possessing counterfeit dies for coins
Fighting Federal Counterfeit Currency Charges
If you have been charged with the federal crime of counterfeit currency, our federal criminal defense lawyers can use a variety of strategies to fight the case.
A common defense is to make an argument there was a lack of intent. As stated, the federal prosecutor must be able to prove not just that you possessed counterfeiting materials or you were involved in transactions of counterfeit money.
They must also be able to prove you also had intent to defraud someone or pass off the counterfeit currency as real money. It they prove this crucial element of intent, then you have a good chance at avoiding a conviction.
Another potential defense is to make an argument that the quality of the counterfeit money was so poor, it doesn't meet the legal definition of being counterfeit. As stated above, in order for money to be considered counterfeit, it must be so similar to authentic money that it would confuse an ordinary person.
Crude copies of money could lack the primary identifying characteristics of real currency simply might not qualify as counterfeit in the context of a federal criminal prosecution. It should be noted, however, this type of defense has limits as you could still be prosecuted for attempting to produce counterfeit currency.
If you are under a criminal investigation for federal counterfeiting currency charges, you need to consult with a lawyer immediately. Early intervention into your case by our experienced federal criminal lawyers can have a huge impact on the outcome of the case.
We have extensive experience defending clients facing charges in the federal court system. If you are convicted of 18 U.S.C. § 471 or a related federal statute, you could be facing severe consequences. Our defense lawyers help Individuals who have been arrested or charged with a federal counterfeiting currency crime.
Eisner Gorin LLP is a nationally ranked criminal defense law firm based in Los Angeles County. We are located at 1875 Century Park E #705, Los Angeles, CA 90067 and in the San Fernando Valley at 14401 Sylvan St #112 Van Nuys, CA 91401. Contact our firm for a consultation at 877-781-1570.