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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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