Skip to main content
Title 9: Criminal

9-64.000 - Protection Of Government Functions

9-64.111 Counterfeiting——18 U.S.C. § 489——Prosecution Policy
9-64.133 Prosecution Policy——18 U.S.C. § 495 or § 510
9-64.134 Prosecution Policy——Interspousal Forgery of Government Checks
9-64.200 Postal Offenses
9-64.300 False Personation
9-64.400 False Identification——18 U.S.C. § 1028

9-64.111 - Counterfeiting—18 U.S.C. § 489—Prosecution Policy

Sections 489 and 475 of Title 18 are in essence copyright statutes. However, in the past the Department has sought to limit their application—to avoid a multitude of prosecutions for trivial violations. Prosecution under 18 U.S.C. § 489 has been limited to those instances in which the token or device in question has some potential for being mistaken for a genuine coin by the ignorant or unwary. In this regard, the Department and Secret Service have agreed that no prosecution should be undertaken under 18 U.S.C. § 489 for a token or device which is more than twice the size of a silver dollar or less than half the size of a dime. In gauging whether a token or device which is more than half the size of a dime but less than the size of a silver dollar is appropriate for prosecution, the additional factors of color and design should be closely scrutinized. The Fraud Section of the Criminal Division is available for consultation on all issues pertaining to the utilization of these statutes.

[updated January 2020]

9-64.133 - Prosecution Policy—18 U.S.C. § 495 or § 510

Since the enactment of 18 U.S.C. § 510, it has been the position of the Criminal Division that 18 U.S.C. § 510 merely supplements 18 U.S.C. § 495 and that it was neither drafted by the Department nor enacted by the Congress for the purpose of repealing 18 U.S.C. § 495. As a result, in cases in which criminal activities have fallen under the proscription of 18 U.S.C. §§ 495 and 510, the Criminal Division has advised that the case may be prosecuted under either statute.

Prosecutive decisions should be made on a case-by-case basis in accordance with the requirements of the particular case and Department policy. Thus, for example, a forgery of a Treasury check with a face value under $500, while prosecutable as a misdemeanor under 18 U.S.C. § 510(c), could nevertheless be prosecuted as a felony under 18 U.S.C. § 495 if the defendant is a repeat offender or involved in ring activity. A case involving the forgery of several instruments exceeding $500 in aggregate value could be brought under the misdemeanor provision of 18 U.S.C. § 510(c) if the facts warrant (by not including all the instruments in the charge), or if brought under 18 U.S.C. § 495 or § 510(a), could be plea negotiated to a misdemeanor under 18 U.S.C. § 510(c). As a general rule, however, when the choice is between charging under the felony provisions of either 18 U.S.C. § 495 or § 510, the Criminal Division prefers charging under 18 U.S.C. § 510 because of the greater penalties available for violations of that section.

The primary thrust of the Department's enforcement program under 18 U.S.C. §§ 495 and 510 is aimed at the organized rings of check forgers and the professional forger who engages in multiple and repeated violations. Efforts should be made to obtain state or local prosecution of persons who engage in a relatively small number of forgeries and who have no prior history of this type of criminal conduct. The Fraud Section, Criminal Division, has supervisory authority over these statutes.

[updated January 2020]

9-64.134 - Prosecution Policy—Interspousal Forgery of Government Checks

It is the general policy of the Department not to prosecute for the interspousal forgery of government checks, because this type of forgery usually emanates from a domestic dispute and is better resolved through either state prosecution or civil litigation. An exception to the general rule against federal prosecution exists where there is independent evidence of intent to defraud, e.g., a court order prohibiting negotiation of a Treasury check, or where there are aggravating circumstances present.

9-64.200 - Postal Offenses

The Violent Crime and Racketeering Section (VCRS) has supervisory authority over violations of 18 U.S.C. § 2114 and § 1715 and, when the nonmailable article is an explosive or is intended to cause violent injury to a person or property, § 1716.

[updated January 2020]

9-64.300 - False Personation

Title 18 U.S.C. § 912 prohibits false personation of officers or employees of the United States. The Fraud Section of the Criminal Division has supervisory authority this statute.

[updated January 2020]

9-64.400 - False Identification—18 U.S.C. § 1028

The False Identification Crime Control Act of 1982 created 18 U.S.C. § 1028 (Fraud and Related Activity in Connection with Identification Documents) and 18 U.S.C. § 1738 (Mailing Private Identification Documents without a Disclaimer).

Sections 1028 and 1738 of Title 18 do not specifically assign investigative responsibility guidelines for the federal investigative agencies. Primary investigative authority for state and foreign government identification documents is assigned to the Secret Service. In regard to 18 U.S.C. § 1738, the Postal Inspection Service has investigative responsibility when the private identification document was transported through the United States mails; otherwise the FBI has investigative jurisdiction over 18 U.S.C. § 1738 violations. The Fraud Section of the Criminal Division has supervisory authority over cases involving prosecutions under sections 1028 and 1738.

[updated January 2020]