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On my University of Washington unofficial transcript, it says

ANY ALTERATION OR MODIFICATION OF THIS RECORD OR ANY COPY THEREOF MAY CONSTITUTE A FELONY AND/OR LEAD TO STUDENT DISCIPLINARY SANCTIONS.

Finding the bit about "student disciplinary sanctions" was quite easy. Finding the bit about "felony" is quite hard.

What "felony" - if any - is this referring to? The closest I've read about are articles relating to fraud. Is that what this is referencing to? I'm starting to believe this is just a scare tactic.

I'm narrowing this question down to exclude scenarios (and scenarios similar to) where you're hired somewhere because of falsified transcripts and cause the company damage. I'm looking for a federal law that specifically prohibits transcript modification and only that.

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  • Why are you restricting your attention to federal laws? Washington State's forgery statute makes it a felony to "falsely make, complete, or alter a written instrument" with intent to injure or defraud. app.leg.wa.gov/RCW/default.aspx?cite=9A.60.020 Commented Sep 16, 2018 at 1:17
  • Until your comment, I was under the impression felonies equate to federal crimes. Clearly, I was wrong.
    – npengra317
    Commented Sep 16, 2018 at 5:34
  • 1
    Please do not use code block for something which is not actual code. It causes difficulty for certain groups of users and interferes with accessibility.
    – user4657
    Commented Sep 16, 2018 at 19:49
  • If you modify the transcript but never actually use it for anything, it might technically be an offense, but you'll never be charged because no harm has been done and the chance that law enforcement will find out is nil. It's just not worth it to enforce it. So excluding the fraudulent hiring makes this question moot.
    – Barmar
    Commented Apr 25 at 23:20
  • @npengra317 a felony is typically any imprisonable crime with a sentence of a year or longer. There are state and federal felonies.
    – cde
    Commented Apr 27 at 19:22

1 Answer 1

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This refers to state law (not federal law) RCW 9A.60.070, titled "False academic credentials". It is against the law to issue a false academic credential, and also to use a false academic credential. Getting to the penalty part, issuing a false academic credential is a class C felony, but knowingly using a false academic credential is only a gross misdemeanor. A false academic credential is

a document that provides evidence or demonstrates completion of an academic or professional course of instruction beyond the secondary level that results in the attainment of an academic certificate, degree, or rank, and that is not issued by a person or entity that: (i) Is an entity accredited by an agency recognized as such by rule of the student achievement council or has the international equivalents of such accreditation; or (ii) is an entity authorized as a degree-granting institution by the student achievement council; or (iii) is an entity exempt from the requirements of authorization as a degree-granting institution by the student achievement council; or (iv) is an entity that has been granted a waiver by the student achievement council from the requirements of authorization by the council. Such documents include, but are not limited to, academic certificates, degrees, coursework, degree credits, transcripts, or certification of completion of a degree.

It then depends on the way in which you modify the transcript. One thing you could do is add text indicating that you received a BA degree, when in fact you did not receive any degree: this would be a false academic credential. If you want to go all the way for a felony charge, you have to issue and not just use a false academic credential. To issue a false credential, you have to do one of the following things:

(a) Grants or awards a false academic credential or offers to grant or award a false academic credential in violation of this section; (b) Represents that a credit earned or granted by the person in violation of this section can be applied toward a credential offered by another person; (c) Grants or offers to grant a credit for which a representation as described in (b) of this subsection is made; or (d) Solicits another person to seek a credential or to earn a credit the person knows is offered in violation of this section.

whereas the misdemeanor of using a false credential is (paraphrasing para 2) falsely using or claiming to have a credential issued by an accredited institution for certain purposes. Those purposes include advertisement of a business, or with the intent to get a job, license, promotion, admission to educational program, or getting a government position.

However, there is also a law against forgery, which is if a person

with intent to injure or defraud: (a) He or she falsely makes, completes, or alters a written instrument or; (b) He or she possesses, utters, offers, disposes of, or puts off as true a written instrument which he or she knows to be forged.

A forged instrument is defined as "a written instrument which has been falsely made, completed, or altered", and a "written instrument" is

(a) Any paper, document, or other instrument containing written or printed matter or its equivalent; or (b) any access device, token, stamp, seal, badge, trademark, or other evidence or symbol of value, right, privilege, or identification.

and forgery is a class C felony. You can be charged with both crimes.

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