NATIONALLY RECOGNIZED FEDERAL LAWYERS

27 Nov 23

Why Counterfeiting US Currency Is a Federal Offense, Not State

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Last Updated on: 16th December 2023, 11:15 am

Why Counterfeiting US Currency Is a Federal Offense, Not State

Counterfeiting money refers to making fake bills or coins to try to use as real currency. It’s taken really seriously as a crime, more than you might think. There’s a few reasons for that. For one thing, it messes with the economy when people make fake money. Prices end up going all crazy if theres more moeny out there than there should be. Also, it’s seen as an attack on the government’s power if you make fake versions of their money. The government wants to control the money supply, not random criminals. So that’s why if you counterfeit money in the US, it’s always going to be a federal crime, not a state one.

The main law that makes counterfeiting illegal is 18 U.S. Code § 471. This law says it’s illegal to make, alter, or try to pass counterfeit currency. There’s also a bunch of other laws about counterfeiting specific documents like bonds, stamps, etc. But the main one is that § 471. It applies to both coins and paper money.

If you get caught counterfeiting under § 471, it’s up to 20 years in prison. That’s pretty serious! It’s worse than a lot of violent crimes. Plus fines up to $250,000. So this is no joke. The government does not mess around when it comes to people faking its cash.

The reason it’s always a federal offense is because the US Constitution says only the federal government can make money. Article 1, Section 8 gives Congress the power to “coin money” and “regulate the value thereof.” States aren’t allowed to print their own money. So if you make fake money, you’re stepping on the federal government’s toes.

The first federal law against counterfeiting came in the 1790s. Back then they would even execute people for it! Nowadays they don’t go that far, but it’s still seen as a direct challenge to the federal government’s power. The Secret Service (yeah, the guys who protect the president) are the main agency that investigates money counterfeiting.

Trying to use fake money, even if you didn’t make it yourself, is also illegal. That’s called “uttering.” This means paying with counterfeit bills, using them to get change, depositing them in the bank, etc. If you get caught doing this, you could face up to 15 years in prison.

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Some people think states should handle counterfeiting, not the feds. But courts have always ruled that counterfeiting laws are constitutional. The Supreme Court said back in 1886 that states can’t make their own rules about fake money. Only the federal government has that power.

There’s some good reasons to keep counterfeiting as a federal crime:

  • It’s a national security issue – fake money threatens the whole country’s economy
  • The Constitution only gives the federal government power over money
  • States might punish it differently, which would be unfair
  • It’s easier to investigate and stop big counterfeiting rings if it’s handled federally

So in summary, counterfeiting US money is always a federal offense, never a state one. The Constitution says only Congress can make money, so if you try making your own, you’re undermining federal power. Important laws like 18 USC § 471 make it a very serious felony. The Secret Service investigates these cases, not state police. There’s good reasons for keeping counterfeiting as a federal crime. It’s seen as a national security issue and a direct challenge to the power of the US government. The penalties are harsh to try to deter people from doing it. But some still try their luck making fake cash, and when they get caught it’s not the states that go after them but the full force of federal law enforcement.