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Suppose someone uttered a forged document across state lines with fraudulent intent. This looks like (attempted) fraud and (completed) forgery in both states, as well as (attempted) mail/wire fraud federally. However, 18 USC Ch 25 clearly applies only when the intended victim or misrepresented party is the United States/agents/etc itself.

Since attempted fraud is basically a predicate offense of forgery, presumably the latter is more serious. Given that federal statute treats "interstate commerce" very liberally (the reach of mail and wire fraud is extremely broad), why didn't congress create a separate crime for interstate forgery? (Start with a copy of 18 USC Ch 25 with all references to "the United States/etc" replaced with "any person, across state lines" and adjust from there.)

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The only real answer is that Congress hasn't (to the best of my knowledge) chosen to pass such a law.

But the kinds of forgery that Congress might plausibly and constitutionally prohibit, such as forgery of checks, forgery of legal documents, and forgery as part of a fraudulent scheme are already crimes under state law, and the states handle such prosecutions perfectly well. There is really no need for a separate federal law on such issues.

The kinds of forgery covered in the answer b grovkin would probably not be covered by a federal forgery statute, if one were to be passed. But that is speculation.

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  • Question is, shouldn't the same reasoning apply to mail/wire fraud? Are states particularly good at prosecuting forgery but not fraud?
    – obscurans
    May 18 at 5:44
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    Scratch that, mail/wire fraud dispenses with actual reliance and actual harm. That's vastly broader, in exchange for requiring it to cross state lines. That makes the interstate version very different from state law, and congress prohibited something a state couldn't prosecute.
    – obscurans
    May 18 at 5:53
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18 USC Ch 25 clearly applies only when the intended victim or misrepresented party is the United States/agents/etc itself.

This is not correct. 18 USC 513 and 514 apply to states and private organizations.

For example, 513(a):

(a) Whoever makes, utters or possesses a counterfeited security of a State or a political subdivision thereof or of an organization, or whoever makes, utters or possesses a forged security of a State or political subdivision thereof or of an organization, with intent to deceive another person, organization, or government shall be fined under this title [1] or imprisoned for not more than ten years, or both.

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  • Right, missed those sections on securities and obligations as particularly worthy of protection.
    – obscurans
    May 17 at 7:42
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Depending on what was forged, this may not even be a crime. The types of forgeries which are criminal are different crimes depending on, again, what's been forged.

For example, forging a passport is covered by 18 USC 1543.

Forging artwork is almost certainly legal if the work is not covered by IP laws and no attempt has been made to sell it or gain financially from the forgery in some other way.

But blanket prohibition on forgery would probably run afoul of the 1st amendment. For example, Congress almost (almost!) certainly cannot make it illegal to create false religious relics which are not copies of existing religious artifacts. But even if a relic is a copy, passing it as genuine maybe an article of (false) faith, which is a protected religious expression.

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    Forgery the crime requires passing with specific intent to defraud, not just the act of creating a falsified material expression.
    – obscurans
    May 17 at 7:41
  • 1543 is titled "Forgery or false use of passport." Its language says "with intent that the same may be used." Or were you objecting to my example of artwork? I hope you agree on the religious relics part.
    – grovkin
    May 17 at 9:57
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    Are we talking about the limited federal forgery statutes? I'm talking about general state forgery crimes, e.g. CA, NY, TX, FL. Every single one of them explicitly lists specific intent, and no court will protect fraudulent expression.
    – obscurans
    May 18 at 5:37

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