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In the law of countries whose legal systems derive from English common law, uttering is a crime similar to forgery. Uttering and forgery were originally common law offences, both misdemeanours. Forgery was the creation of a forged document, with the intent to defraud; whereas uttering was merely use — the passing — of a forged document, that someone else had made, with the intent to defraud. In law, uttering is synonymous with publication, and the distinction made between the common law offences was that forgery was the fabrication of a forged instrument (with the intent to defraud) and uttering was the publication of that instrument (with the intent to defraud). Statute law offences of forgery replace the common law offences nowadays, often subsuming the offence of uttering, and forgery is usually a felony rather than a misdemeanour.
Uttering a forged document is a criminal offence in Canada, contrary to s 368 of the Criminal Code. It is an indictable offence and is punishable with imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years.
England and Wales and Northern Ireland
See section 36 of the Forgery Act 1861.
See section 6 of the Forgery Act 1913.
Section 29(1)(i) of the Larceny Act 1916 formerly created the offence of uttering a letter or writing demanding property with menaces.
In Scotland Uttering forged writings is a crime defined as "using as genuine a fabricated writing falsely intended to pass as genuine the writing of another person".
In the U.S., uttering is the act of offering a forged document to another when the offeror has knowledge that the document is forged. Uttering does not require that the person who presented the document actually forged or altered the document. For example, forging a log for personal profit might be considered uttering and publishing. Another example would be the forging of a university diploma. As an example of the law itself, the State of Michigan defines the offense (MCL 750.249): "Any person who utters and publishes as true any false, forged, altered or counterfeit record, deed, instrument or other writing specified, knowing it to be false, altered, forged, or counterfeit, with intent to injure or defraud is guilty of uttering and publishing."
Forging or illegal "publishing" of an official or unofficial document is not the essence of uttering. Uttering is the actual presentation of forged or official documentation as one's own.
- Carlan, Nored & Downey 2010, p. 45–47.
- Scheb 2008, p. 181.
- Criminal Code, RSC 1985, c C-46, s 368.
- NAS 2006, "Uttering".
- State v. Greenlee, 272 N.C. 651 657, 159, S.E.2d 22, 26 (1968) (“uttering is offering to another a forged instrument with the knowledge of the falsity of the writing and with intent to defraud”).
- People v Cassadime - Michigan Appellate Digest, 9 September 2003
- "Index of Scottish legal terms". National Archives of Scotland. 2006-03-23.
- Carlan, Philip; Nored, Lisa S.; Downey, Ragan A. (2010). An Introduction to Criminal Law. Jones & Bartlett Learning. ISBN 978-0-7637-5525-6.
- Scheb, John M. (2008). Criminal Law (5th ed.). Cengage Learning. ISBN 978-0-495-50480-1.
- Blackstone, William (1851). Commentaries on the Laws of England. 2 (books 3 and 4). additional notes by Edward Christian, Joseph Chitty, Thomas Lee, John Eykyn Hovenden, and Archer Ryland (19th ed.). New York: W. E. Dean. pp. 202–207.
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