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Court addresses forgery statute on electronic credit card purchases

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Using someone else’s credit card and electronically signing that person’s name is considered “uttering” a written instrument under Indiana’s forgery statute, the state’s appellate court has ruled.

The three-judge panel unanimously reached that holding today in the case of Jessica Borjas v. State of Indiana, No. 49A02-1009-CR-1048, which hails from Marion Superior Judge Steven Rubick.

In September 2009, the Indianapolis woman went to a Family Dollar store and bought about $155 in merchandise using another person’s Visa credit card, swiping the card to process the transaction and then signing the name of the cardholder. That person had not given her permission to use the card. Neither electronic receipt reproduced the false signature, but it was stored in the system.

The state later charged Borjas with two Class C felony counts and she waived her right to a jury trial. She argued that an electronic signature after the sale – signifying that a sale had been approved electronically – did not fall within Indiana Code 35-43-5-2(b) because the sale was approved prior to her signing.

The trial judge disagreed and found her guilty on both counts.

On appeal, the Indiana Court of Appeals noted that the Indiana forgery statute specifically says that the state must prove that someone “with the intent to defraud, uttered a written instrument” without the authority to do so. The court found her argument without merit and specifically relied on a not-yet-certified ruling about three weeks ago in Green v. State, __ N.E.2d__, 2011 WL 1047053, at *2-*3 (Ind. Ct. App., March 23, 2011), that held it would run contrary to the General Assembly’s express interest to allow someone to avoid forgery convictions because of an electronic signature.

“Nonetheless, Borjas contends that the sale was completed when she received electronic approval that the funds to complete the sale were available,” the court wrote today. “That contention is not supported by citation to authority and is not otherwise persuasive. It is common knowledge that a signature may be required for a credit card transaction. When it is, the signature is not superfluous but serves to authenticate the sale.”

The judges also cited Indiana Code 26-2-8-106, in finding that a “signature may not be denied legal effect or enforceability solely because it is in electronic form.”

 

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  1. What is this, the Ind Supreme Court thinking that there is a separation of powers and limited enumerated powers as delegated by a dusty old document? Such eighteen century thinking, so rare and unwanted by the elites in this modern age. Dictate to us, dictate over us, the massess are chanting! George Soros agrees. Time to change with times Ind Supreme Court, says all President Snows. Rule by executive decree is the new black.

  2. I made the same argument before a commission of the Indiana Supreme Court and then to the fedeal district and federal appellate courts. Fell flat. So very glad to read that some judges still beleive that evidentiary foundations matter.

  3. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  4. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

  5. I will agree with that as soon as law schools stop lying to prospective students about salaries and employment opportunities in the legal profession. There is no defense to the fraudulent numbers first year salaries they post to mislead people into going to law school.

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