Nevada Forgery Laws (NRS 205.090)
Explained by Las Vegas Criminal Defense Attorneys


In Nevada, forgery is defined as intentionally attempting to defraud another by means of falsified documents. Common types of forgery involve:

  • signing somebody else's name without their consent, such as on a check or contract
  • altering or falsifying a legal instrument, such as a will or trust
  • falsifying a deed or court order


Forging documents is typically prosecuted as a category D felony in Nevada, carrying the following penalties:

This type of felony is not eligible for a criminal record seal until 5 years after the case is closed. But depending on the case, the D.A. may be willing to plea bargain the charge down or even dismiss it.


Common arguments to fight forgery charges include establishing that:

If the defense attorney can show that the state's evidence is insufficient to sustain a guilty verdict, the charges should be dropped.

In this article, our Las Vegas forgery defense attorneys discuss:

Depending on the case, forgery can be prosecuted as a felony or a misdemeanor in Nevada

1. What is forgery in Las Vegas, Nevada?

There are many different forms of forgery, but it generally consists of three parts (called "elements") that prosecutors need to prove in order to make the charge:

  1. The defendant passes -- or attempts to pass -- a false instrument as true and genuine,
  2. The defendant knew the instrument was false, and
  3. The defendant had intent to defraud.1

1.1. The defendant passes a false instrument as true.

The first element of forgery is that the defendant uses -- or tries to use -- a falsified document as if it were genuine. Some examples include:

  • signing a contract or promissory note with someone else's name ("forging a signature without permission")2
  • signing and trying to pass a fake check or traveler's check3
  • altering the terms of a property deed, will, trust, mortgage document, or real estate lease
  • printing and using a counterfeit money order or lotto ticket
  • creating a false court order, stock certificate, or power of attorney

In most cases, simply signing a false name on an instrument does not rise to the level of forgery if the person never tries to pass off the instrument as real. For instance, forging a signature on a check probably would not invite criminal prosecution if the person loses his/her nerve and never tries to deposit it.4

1.2. The defendant knows the instrument is false


The defendant has to be aware that the document is not genuine in order to be convicted of forgery. For instance, if a husband forges a signature on a stolen check and instructs his wife to deposit it in their account, the wife committed no crime as long as she believed the check was legitimate.

1.3. The defendant has the intent to defraud

The central element in any forgery case is that the defendant intended to use the forged document to defraud. In other words, the defendant was deliberately trying to trick another by passing off a false document as true. Predictably, the motivation for intent to defraud often involves:

  • financial gain,
  • increasing one's power,
  • improving one's reputation or livelihood, and/or
  • harming another's reputation or livelihood

Therefore, people who accidentally or mistakenly falsify a document committed no crime as long as they lacked fraudulent intent.

Unlike an allegedly forged document, intent to defraud is a state of mind and not easily proven. Therefore, the court relies on circumstantial evidence to form common sense inferences about whether the defendant had fraudulent intent. Examples of such evidence include

  • eyewitnesses,
  • audio-visual recordings, and
  • handwriting experts.5

2. What are the penalties for forgery in Las Vegas, Nevada?

In general, forgery is a category D felony resulting in a sentence of:

  • victim restitution, 
  • one to four (1 - 4) years in prison, and
  • up to $5,000 in fines (at the judge's discretion)

But Nevada law spells out several separate forgery laws, each with its own punishment:6

Nevada Forgery offense Penalties

Forging documents (NRS 205.090)

Category D felony:

·      1 – 4 years in prison, and

·      possibly $5,000 in fines, and

·      restitution

False certificate to certain instruments (NRS 205.120)

Category D felony:

·      1 – 4 years in prison, and

·      possibly $5,000 in fines

Possessing or receiving forged instruments or bills (205.160)

Category C felony:

·      1 – 5 years in prison, and

·      possibly $10,000 in fines, and

·      restitution

Forgery of signatures of public officers (NRS 205.175)

Depending on the case:

Category D felony:

·      1 – 4 years in prison, and

·      possibly $5,000 in fines


Gross misdemeanor:

·      up to 364 days in prison, and

·      up to $2,000 in fines

Counterfeiting stamps and labels (NRS 205.195)


·      Up to $1,000 in fines, and/or

·      Up to 6 months in jail

Selling goods containing forged stamps (NRS 205.200)


·      Up to $1,000 in fines, and/or

·      Up to 6 months in jail

Counterfeiting trademark or design (NRS 205.205)


·      Up to $1,000 in fines, and/or

·      Up to 6 months in jail

Selling or displaying goods with false trademark (NRS 205.210)

Depending on the case:

Category D felony:

·      1 – 4 years in prison, and

·      possibly $5,000 in fines


Category E felony:

·      1 – 4 years in prison, and

·      possibly $5,000 in fines

·      the judge typically grants probation



·      Up to $1,000 in fines, and/or

·      Up to 6 months in jail

Fraudulent registration of a trademark (NRS 205.215)


·      Up to $1,000 in fines, and/or

·      Up to 6 months in jail

2.1. Plea bargains

Depending on the case, the prosecutor may be willing to negotiate a deal whereby the forgery charge is reduced to a lesser offense or dismissed. A defendant is more likely to receive a favorable plea bargain if he/she:

  1. has no prior criminal record,
  2. can pay full restitution, and
  3. is cooperative with the police

3. What are the defenses to a forgery charge?

The three most common forgery defenses are:

  1. No forgery occurred,
  2. There was no intent to defraud, and/or
  3. The police conducted an illegal search

Note that it is not a defense to forgery charges that there were no victims or that nobody lost money due to the forgery.

3.1. There was no forgery

There are many reasons people may be falsely accused of forgery, such as:

  • Someone is angry at the defendant and lies to get him/her in trouble,
  • There was a clerical error that raised unfounded forgery concerns, and/or
  • The document may have been fake, but it was not an "instrument" protected by forgery laws (such as a love letter)

Depending on the nature of the case, the defendant's attorney can hire an expert witness to attest to the documents' authenticity and defendant's handwriting.7

3.2. The defendant did not intend to defraud

intent to defraud

A defendant cannot be criminally liable for forgery if he/she had no fraudulent intentions.

Perhaps the defendant was framed. Or perhaps the defendant thought he/she had the authority to alter a document. Either way, honest mistakes are a defense to forgery.

Several types of circumstantial evidence might be admissible to prove intent, such as:

  • eyewitness testimony,
  • communications between the defendant and others,
  • photographs, and/or
  • video surveillance

If the prosecution cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt the defendant intended to defraud, then forgery charges should not be sustained.

Note that voluntary intoxication is not a defense to forgery unless the defendant was grossly incapacitated.8

3.3. The police conducted an illegal search

The Fourth Amendment requires that police follow strict rules when conducting searches and seizures. Police must get a valid search warrant, or there needs to be an exceptional circumstance that justifies not getting a warrant. But in many cases, police overstep their constitutional bounds and illegally seize evidence.

When the police may have acted unlawfully, the defense attorney can file a motion to suppress evidence in Nevada court:. This motion asks the judge to disregard any and all evidence that the police found through their unlawful search. If the judge grants the motion to suppress, the D.A. may have insufficient evidence to sustain a guilty verdict.

4. When can I seal a forgery conviction in Las Vegas, Nevada?

The typical forgery conviction prosecuted under NRS 205.090 can be sealed five (5) years after the case ends.9 But if the charge gets reduced or dismissed, the waiting period is significantly lessened:10

Class of Nevada forgery conviction Record seal waiting period (after the case closes)

Dismissed or acquitted charges (no conviction)



1 year

Gross misdemeanor

2 years

Category E felony

2 years

Category D felony

5 years

Category C felony

5 years

People with any fraud conviction on their criminal record face loss of job opportunities and social stigmatization. So past forgery defendants are advised to pursue record sealing as soon as their case allows. The entire record seal process takes several weeks from start to finish.

5. Can I get deported for forgery in Las Vegas, Nevada?


Yes, because forgery is a crime involving moral turpitude.11 Also, some forgery offenses fall within the deportable class of crimes called aggravated felonies.12

Consequently, non-citizens arrested for forgery are strongly encouraged to hire an attorney experienced in both immigration and criminal defense law. The defendant may be able to stay in the country if the attorney can get the forgery case dismissed or reduced to a non-removable offense.

Learn more about the criminal defense of immigrants in Nevada.

6. Related white-collar offenses:

Fraud-related crimes frequently charged with forgery Definition

Bad checks (NRS 205.130)

Intentionally passing checks when there are insufficient funds in the bank.

Bank fraud (18 U.S.C. § 1344)

Intentionally depriving a bank of its assets by fraudulent means.

Casino markers (NRS 205.130)

When a person willfully and with an intent to defraud takes out a casino marker with insufficient funds in the bank to pay for it.

Commercial bribery (NRS 207.295)

When a person offers money or another benefit to a company employee in exchange for making a business decision without the boss's permission.

Counterfeit seals (NRS 205.175)

When a person uses an official seal fraudulently.

Credit Card Fraud (NRS 205.680-800), including credit card possession without consent

Intentionally misusing credit or debit card information to the financial detriment of another.

Embezzlement (NRS 205.300)

Stealing property that the defendant has been legally entrusted with (such as not returning a rented vehicle).

Health care fraud (NRS 422.410)

Includes situations where medical providers try to cheat patients' insurance companies for more money than they are legally entitled to.

Identity theft (NRS 205.465)

When one person uses another's ID to commit fraud

Mail Fraud (18 U.S.C. § 1341)

When the mail is used in an attempt to defraud someone.

Money laundering (18 U.S.C. § 1956)

Knowingly camouflaging the source of unlawfully obtained money.

Mortgage fraud (NRS 205.372)

Perpetrating a deceptive mortgage transaction, usually for monetary gain

Racketeering (NRS 207.400)

Criminal activity that is carried out in furtherance of an unlawful business. This typically applies to illegal gambling rings and organized crime.

Wire fraud (18 U.S.C. § 1343)

When wire communications such as the telephone are used to carry out a fraudulent act.

Accused of Forgery? We can help . . .

Our Las Vegas criminal defense lawyers are happy to speak with you for free about your case. Call us at 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673). We take a comprehensive approach. First, we try to craft a deal that will result in your charges getting reduced or dismissed. But if necessary, we will then take your case to a jury and fight zealously for a "not guilty" verdict.

Arrested in California? Go to our informational article on California Forgery law.

Arrested in Colorado? Go to our informational article on Colorado Forgery law.

Legal References

  1. Patin v. Sheriff, Clark County, 92 Nev. 673, 557 P.2d 708 (1976)("NRS 205.090 provides, among other things, that any person who (1) passes or attempts to pass, as true and genuine, a forged or false instrument, (2) knowing it to be forged or false, (3) with intent to defraud, is guilty of forgery...where one in possession of a forged instrument seeks to pass it, is permissible to infer, for the purpose of establishing probable cause, that she acted with the fraudulent intent necessary to support a charge of forgery.").
  2. Mathews v. Lamb, 84 Nev. 649, 446 P.2d 651 (1968)("It is undisputed that lack of authority is an essential element of the corpus delicti of the crime of forgery.").
  3. Hill v. Sheriff, Clark County, 95 Nev. 438, 596 P.2d 234 (1979)("...a defendant signs his true name on a traveler's check which has never been issued and which he has no authority to sign. Such conduct amounts to an alteration of the instrument within the meaning of the forgery statute.").
  4. See Patin v. Sheriff, Clark County, 92 Nev. 673, 557 P.2d 708 (1976).
  5. Patin v. Sheriff, Clark County, 92 Nev. 673, 557 P.2d 708 (1976)("[I]t is permissible to infer, for the purpose of establishing probable cause, that she acted with the fraudulent intent necessary to support a charge of forgery."); State v. Ramage, 51 Nev. 82, 269 P. 489(1928)("Of course intent is a mental state, and, so far as the State is concerned, must be shown from the facts and circumstances, but there are certain presumptions which arise from a given state of facts. It is laid down as a rule of law that the possession of forged paper by the accused with a claim of title thereto, unexplained, raises a conclusive presumption that he forged it.").
  6. See NRS 205.085 Definitions.

          1. Within the provisions of this chapter relating to forgery or other offense, a “written instrument,” or a “writing,” or a “paper,” shall include an instrument partly written and partly printed or wholly printed with a written signature thereto, or any signature or writing purporting to be a signature of or intended to bind an individual, partnership, corporation or association or an officer thereof.

          2. The words “forge,” “forgery,” “forged,” and “forging,” shall include false making, “counterfeiting” and the alteration, erasure or obliteration of a genuine instrument in whole or in part, the false making or counterfeiting of the signature of a party or witness, real or fictitious, and the placing or connecting together with intent to defraud, of different parts or the whole of several genuine instruments.

          3. A plate is in the “form and similitude,” of the genuine instrument forged, if the finished parts of the engraving thereupon shall resemble or conform to the similar parts of the genuine instrument.

          4. A plate, label, trademark, term, design, device or form of advertisement is in the form and similitude of the genuine instrument imitated if the finished parts of the engraving thereupon shall resemble or conform to the similar parts of the genuine instrument;

    NRS 205.090 Forgery of conveyances, negotiable instruments, stock certificates, wills and other instruments; utterance of forged instrument. A person who falsely makes, alters, forges or counterfeits any record, or other authentic matter of a public nature, or any charter, letters patent, deed, lease, indenture, writing obligatory, will, testament, codicil, annuity, bond, covenant, bank bill or note, post note, check, draft, bill of exchange, contract, promissory note, traveler's check, money order, due bill for the payment of money or property or for the payment of any labor claim, receipt for money or property, power of attorney, any auditor's warrant for the payment of the money at the treasury, county order or warrant, or request for the payment of money, or the delivery of goods or chattels of any kind, or for the delivery of any instrument of writing, or acquittance, release, or receipt for money, goods, or labor claim, or any acquittance, release, or discharge for any debt, account, suit, action, demand, or other thing, real or personal, or any transfer or assurance of money, stock, goods, chattels, or other property whatever, or any letter of attorney, or other power to receive money, or to receive or transfer stock or annuities, or to let, lease, dispose of, alien or convey any goods or chattels, lands or tenements, or other estate, real or personal, or any acceptance or endorsement of any bill of exchange, promissory note, draft, order or assignment of any bond, writing obligatory, or promissory note, for money or other property, or any order, writ or process lawfully issued by any court or public officer, or any document or paper recorded or filed in any court or with any public officer, or in the Senate or Assembly, or counterfeits or forges the seal or handwriting of another, with the intent to damage or defraud any person, body politic or corporate, whether the person, body politic or corporate, resides in or belongs to this State or not, or utters, publishes, passes or attempts to pass, as true and genuine, any of the above-named false, altered, forged or counterfeited matters, as above specified and described, knowing it to be false, altered, forged or counterfeited with the intent to prejudice, damage or defraud any person, body politic or corporate, whether the person, body politic or corporate, resides in this State or not, is guilty of forgery, and shall be punished for a category D felony as provided in NRS 193.130. In addition to any other penalty, the court shall order the person to pay restitution;

    See also NRS 205.095 Other acts constituting forgery; NRS 205.100 Making, uttering or possessing with intent to utter fictitious bill, note or check; NRS 205.105 Forgery of instrument purporting to hav e been issued by corporation or state; NRS 205.110 Uttering forged instruments: Forgery; NRS 205.115 True writing signed by wrongdoer's name or name of person not in existence; NRS 205.120 False certificate to certain instruments punishable as forgery; NRS 205.160 Possessing or receiving forged instruments or bills; NRS 205.175 Counterfeiting seals; forgery of signatures of public officers; sale or possession of counterfeit badge or identification of law enforcement agency.

  7. See NRS 205.170 Expert may prove forgery or counterfeit. Persons of skill shall be competent witnesses to prove that such bill or note is forged or counterfeited; NRS 205.165 General reputation may be used to prove incorporation in the trial for forgery of bill or note of incorporated company or bank. On the trial of any person for forging any bill or note purporting to be the bill or note of some incorporated company or bank, or for passing or attempting to pass, or having in possession with intent to pass, any such forged bill or note, it shall not be necessary to prove the incorporation of such bank or company by the charter or act of incorporation, but the same may be proved by general reputation.
  8. Andrade v. State, 87 Nev. 144, 483 P.2d 208 (1971)("voluntary intoxication, though not an excuse for crime, may be considered in determining intent...there is substantial evidence from which the jury could conclude that Andrade's intoxication was not so gross as to preclude his intention to defraud.").
  9. NRS 179.245.
  10. NRS 179.255.
  11. INA § 237(a)(2)(A).
  12. INA § 101(a)(43)-(45).

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