The crime of forging a signature: a scam that can land you in jail

This action results in documentary falsehood, whose penalty will depend on whether it is a public or private document and will be aggravated if the person responsible is the authority or a public official.

The forgery of another person’s signature, even if it is done in good faith and according to a relationship of trust, is not just any action and can lead to serious consequences, including a prison sentence. Specifically, making a signature on behalf of another person is conceived as a crime of false documentation , regulated in the Penal Code, and its penalty can range from six months to six years in prison. The wide difference in the penalty is due to the fact that it is not defined in the same way if the falsified document is of a public or private nature. 

Public documents are subject to stricter regulations, even more so if the person in charge is the authority or a public official, as well as the person in charge of any religious denomination. Thus, in these cases the penalty they face is three to six years in prison . But, in addition to the prison sentence, these crimes can also carry punishments such as fines of six to twenty-four months and special disqualification, in the case of an official, for a term of two to six years. 

If the public official commits this crime but not directly, but rather through imprudence , the punishment will be less: a fine of six to twelve months and suspension from employment or public office for a period of six months to one year. If the person responsible for the forgery of a signature is an individual, without public responsibilities, the punishment may be from 6 months to three years in prison.

The situation is different if the forged signature is included in a private document, that is, signed between individuals. Specifically, in these cases the prison sentence is limited to a maximum of two years , six months minimum. 

As we have indicated, the forgery of the signature is included as a crime of document forgery, but it must be taken into account that this offense also covers other actions. For example, those who manipulate or use a document being aware that it is manipulated , it is a scam or fraud will face the same previous ones, according to the specific conditions. However, in these cases the seriousness of the infraction and, therefore, the penalty to be applied, will be less compared to counterfeiters. 

The crime of false documentation is regulated by article 390 of the Penal Code and it is established that this infraction will be committed whenever any of the following situations occurs:

  • Alteration of a document in any of its essential elements or requirements.
  • Simulation of a document in whole or in part, in such a way as to mislead its authenticity.
  • Supposition of the intervention of people who have not had it in an act, or attributing to those who have intervened in it statements or manifestations different from those they would have made.
  • It lacks the truth in the narration of the facts.

What happens if consent is given for that signature?

The forgery of a signature can be a more common act than we think, for example when signing a receipt or picking up an order that corresponds to another person. These actions must be avoided because the signature is a personal act and implies the consent of the person who signs. The only way for one person to sign for another and for that signature to be considered valid and uncontested, is to obtain a power of attorney. But, even in that case, the person authorized to sign must use his own signature, not that of the person who authorized him.

If someone decides to report the use of their signature without their consent, the first thing they should do is go to a handwriting expert and ask for an expert report . This step is essential to avoid the legal consequences derived from that illegal signature and will allow you to file a complaint for forgery of signature before the courts. If the person himself has given his consent to that forgery, without judicial power, but later wants to challenge the signature, he faces criminal consequences as well. If the person who has forged the signature demonstrates consent, the legal consequences of this fall on the owner of the signature.

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