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Using a Falsified COVID-19 Vaccination Card Becomes a State Crime in New York

by | Jan 4, 2022

On Wednesday, December 22, New York Governor Kathy Hochul signed a bill into law that makes producing or using a falsified vaccination card a crime statewide. Referred to as the “Truth in Vaccination” law, the bill was part of a legislative package aimed at improving the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. While using a fraudulent vaccine card is also a federal crime, the new law gives prosecutors an additional tool to bring criminal charges on the state level.     

What Are the Penalties for Falsifying a Vaccination Card in New York?

The recently enacted legislation amends New York’s Penal Code by including vaccine cards under the definition of “written instruments” for the purpose of the forgery statute. Under the new law, individuals who possess falsified vaccine cards can now be charged with “Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument.” The penalties for this offense are as follows: 

  • Third Degree Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument — A conviction for a violation of New York Penal Law 175.20 is a Class A misdemeanor, carrying a penalty of up to a year in jail or three years of probation.
  • Second Degree Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument — Under New York Penal Law 175.25, this crime is a Class D felony, punishable by a maximum of seven years in prison.
  • First Degree Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument — This crime is the most serious in the category and can be charged as a Class C felony under New York Penal Law 170.30. An individual found guilty of this offense can face up to 15 years in jail.    

The vaccine card law also explicitly makes it a Class E felony to intentionally alter computer material to indicate that an individual was vaccinated against COVID-19.         

NYC’s Efforts to Curtail COVID-19 Vaccine Card Fraud Crimes

New York City has recently been cracking down on COVID-related fraud crimes, and these types of offenses are being prosecuted to the fullest extent. In August, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office charged and indicted 15 individuals who purchased counterfeit vaccination cards. Specifically, the charges brought by the DA’s Office include Conspiracy in the Fifth Degree, Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the Second Degree, and Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree. 

Notably, D’Emilia Law represents one of the defendants in the case — a hospital employee and conscientious objector of the vaccine. Due to concerns of being terminated from her employment over objections to the vaccine mandate imposed by her employer, the individual had purportedly ordered fake vaccination cards from an online vendor. 

Although the order was completed, and the physical cards were mailed to her home, the individual ultimately decided to destroy them before use or distribution. However, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office had tracked her and the others who had purchased the cards from the same vendor through their IP addresses. Ultimately, charges were brought against those who sold the cards, as well as those who were alleged to have purchased them. 

The criminal case is pending and D’Emilia Law is currently engaged in plea negotiations on the client’s behalf.

Contact a Skilled New York City Criminal Defense Attorney

Falsifying or forging a COVID-19 vaccine card is a serious offense that can come with life-changing consequences. If you’ve been arrested for possessing, distributing, or altering COVID-19 vaccine cards, it’s crucial to have an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side who can fight for your rights. Importantly, a charge doesn’t mean a conviction — the criminal defense attorneys at D’Emilia Law will work diligently to protect your Constitutional rights and achieve the best possible outcome in your case. Call 1-888-DEMILIA to learn how we can help. 

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