How Much Jail Time Can You Get for Forgery in Canada?

by | Dec 3, 2020 | Theft, Fraud & Other Offences

Being charged with a forgery offence can be stressful and confusing. Perhaps you are asking yourself the question: “What is the maximum penalty for forgery in Canada?”. We have an answer for you. If you need help right away, the criminal lawyers at Mickelson & Whysall Law Corporation can support you with legal representation.

Canadian law says that:

 Every one who commits forgery

  • (a) is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years; or

  • (b) is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.

meaning that you can get up to 10 years’ jail time for forgery if the forgery case proceeds by way of indictment.

What happens if you get caught for forgery?

Not every forgery case results in a long jail time punishment.

If you are tried on a summary basis, the maximum punishment is two years less one day in prison and/or a $5,000 fine. Sentences of those convicted of forgery are different and depend on the details of allegations.

If the case is less serious, you might face probation time, be ordered to pay fines and/or restitution.

You can also be discharged or granted a conditional sentence.

What is the definition of forgery in Canada?

Forgery is when someone makes a false document, knowing it to be false, with the intent of using it as a genuine document.

The legal wording and forgery criminal code are:

(1) Everyone commits forgery who makes a false document, knowing it to be false, with intent

  • (a) that it should in any way be used or acted on as genuine, to the prejudice of any one whether within Canada or not; or

  • (b) that a person should be induced, by the belief that it is genuine, to do or to refrain from doing anything, whether within Canada or not.


What are commonly forged documents? – 8 Examples

Not any false writing will be considered forgery and resulting in criminal charges. The document must have legal significance. False document and forged document terms are not interchangeable terms. Forge happens when you are altering a genuine document with the intent of using it as a legitimate and trustworthy document.

Forging documents of legal significance include but is not limited to:

  1. Copying someone else’s signature on a cheque
  2. Copying someone else’s signature on a piece of artwork
  3. Copying doctor’s signature on drug prescriptions
  4. Forging doctor’s notes on medical documents
  5. Creating false marriage/birth/death certificates
  6. Creating false letters for the purposes of insurance or healthcare
  7. Amending a Last Will and Testament without the testator’s consent
  8. Creating identification documents like drivers licences or passports
Document with two signatures to illustrate maximum penalty for forgery in Canada article

Photo by Lewis Keegan on Unsplash

What is the difference between uttering and forgery?

The offence of forgery in Canada is known more specifically as ‘uttering a forged document’. Uttering means selling, publishing or passing a forged or counterfeited document, with the intention to injure or defraud.

Forgery creates a falsified document. To utter means, you know that this document is forged and you use it anyway.

It is illegal under Section 368 of the Criminal Code.

What is the difference between counterfeiting and forgery?

Forgery is closely linked to counterfeiting, although there are some differences between the two.

Counterfeit goods are imitations of the original, such as counterfeit money, stamps or handbags. Forgery, on the other hand, usually involves amending a genuine document in some way, whether by adding to it or removing/erasing something from it.

Are there other kinds of forgery?

Nowadays one of the most common types of forgery is identity theft. An individual takes another’s personal information and uses it. If you are found guilty of identity theft, you face up to five years in prison. Read more in our “Should I Hire a Lawyer for Identity Theft?” article

Falsifying credit card data or documents in Canada can result in forgery charges and the jail time penalty. We wrote more about this in the Credit Card Fraud article.

Forgery is a hybrid offence in Canada

This means the prosecution can either proceed on a summary basis or by way of indictment. Indictable offences are more serious than summary offences and so carry heavier penalties.

The Crown will decide whether to charge the accused with a summary offence or an indictable offence. This dictates what the maximum available penalty is if the accused is found guilty.

There are factors that impact the prosecutor’s choice between summary conviction offence and the indictable offence. It is the seriousness of the accused’s actions and how much harm was caused.

Maximum jail time penalty for forgery in Canada

The maximum penalty for forgery in Canada is:

  • 10 years in jail, if tried by indictment
  • Two years less one day in jail and/or a $5,000 fine, if tried on a summary basis

If you are handed a fine and this is not paid, then the court may order you to be imprisoned instead, in default of payment.

Forgery cases can be complicated and the penalties for forgery are serious. Forged documents can have serious and far-reaching negative consequences and therefore are punished harshly.

If you are accused of forgery, it is vital to have an experienced criminal defence lawyer on your side.

Vancouver theft and fraud lawyers

At Mickelson & Whysall Law Corporation, our criminal defence solicitors specialize in all subsets of fraud. Whether you have been accused of forgery, counterfeiting, theft or fraud, we can help you.

We know what defence to use in your particular case and will work to secure the best possible outcome on your behalf.

In this article, we explain how we operate and what you can expect from Mickelson & Whysall lawyers.

Read more about how to choose a criminal defence lawyer in Vancouver » What Kind of Lawyer Do I Need to Defend a Fraud Case?

Call a Vancouver criminal defence lawyer now – 604-688-8588 (24 hours)