Uttering and publishing is the official title in Michigan given for the felony crime of falsifying or forging certain documents with the intent to defraud. This crime has been on the books in since 1931. In my opinion, it is a badly written law that needs to be modernized. However, the statute remains widely used to charge individuals whose conduct falls within the vague provisions of this law. Based upon the number of uttering and publishing / forgery cases that our firm handles in the Macomb County Courts, I would say that this statute is used most extensively to prosecute individuals that are involved in check scandals.
The crime of uttering and publishing is complete upon presenting a false document to be truthful with an intent to defraud another
The uttering and publishing statute (MCL 750.248) provides that:
A person who falsely makes, alters, forges, or counterfeits a public record, or a certificate, return, or attestation of a clerk of a court, register of deeds, notary public, township clerk, or any other public officer, in relation to a matter in which the certificate, return, or attestation may be received as legal proof, or a charter, will, testament, bond, writing obligatory, letter of attorney, policy of insurance, bill of lading, bill of exchange, promissory note, or an order, acquittance of discharge for money or other property, or a waiver, release, claim or demand, or an acceptance of a bill of exchange, or indorsement, or assignment of a bill of exchange or promissory note for the payment of money, or an accountable receipt for money, goods, or other property with intent to injure or defraud another person is guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than 14 years.
The venue in a prosecution under this section may be in the county in which the forgery was performed; in a county in which a false, forged, altered, or counterfeit record, instrument, or other writing is uttered and published with intent to injure or defraud; or in the county in which the rightful property owner resides.
The punishment does not fit the crime
Upon conviction for uttering and publishing, a person may be punished for up to 14 years in prison regardless of the dollar amount of property or money involved. In contrast, the penalties for other Michigan economic crimes, such as embezzlement or false pretenses, are based upon the dollar amount involved and do not become felonies until the dollar amount is $1,000.00 or more. I reiterate my opinion that the uttering and publishing law needs some legislative updating to comport with the penalties associated with other Michigan economic crimes.
Check fraud crimes: If something sounds too good to be true it probably isn’t!
Check fraud scams which may support uttering and publishing charges are prevalent throughout the United States and Macomb County.
Checks that are from unknown sources, or coupled with random promises of money in exchange for cashing a check, are all within the realm of possible check fraud scams. The following was said about check fraud scams in a CBS Money Watch article dated June 14, 2011, 5 Ways to Get Taken by Fake Checks:
Fake check scams are the most pervasive fraud in America, hitting virtually every demographic group with some permutation of the same clever con, according to the National Consumer’s League. Fake check scams are an equal opportunity fraud, says John Breyault, director of the National Consumers League Fraud Center. Scam artists are savvy, networked and know every button to push to get consumers from all walks of life to fall for their schemes.
Resolution of uttering and publishing cases, restitution, reduction to a misdemeanor
A person without any prior criminal history who can make good on the money or property (restitution) which was misappropriated in an uttering and publishing scenario has a good chance of obtaining a favorable resolution in the court system. Based upon our experience in handling uttering and publishing cases in Macomb County, I can say that the majority of our cases (over 90%) have been reduced to a misdemeanor with no jail when we can negotiate a plea bargain that includes payment of full restitution. Whenever a person cannot pay restitution, we may be able to negotiate a delayed sentence or advocate for probation with terms to allow repayment of restitution within a period of 12 months or longer. Uttering and publishing cases even manageable in situations when we represent someone with a prior criminal history (assuming the criminal history is not egregious or indicative of a pattern of criminal behavior). Again, restitution is the key to resolution of uttering and publishing cases.