Obtaining and using a fake ID might not seem like a huge deal, especially if it’s just used to get into bars and clubs. But if you are arrested for the possession of a fake ID, you can face serious criminal charges. When you have been accused of violating fake ID laws in San Diego, California, contact a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.
California Fake ID Law
California Penal Code section 470b (PC) makes it illegal to possess a fake ID to deceive or defraud someone. While most counterfeit IDs are driver’s licenses, 470b covers all identification documents issued by government agencies, including passport cards, state ID cards, veteran ID cards, passport books, and more. The government-issued identification card does not need to be created from scratch. It is still illegal if forged, duplicated, reproduced, or counterfeited.
A critical aspect of this charge is that the person possessing the identification card must intend to use the document to commit fraud. The part of the law requiring an intent to commit fraud is why novelty IDs are not against the law to possess, like the Superbad movie merchandise that appear to be Hawaiian driver’s licenses with the name “McLovin” —even though they somewhat resemble government-issued documents. The fraud need not be for monetary gain but to deceive people to illegally purchase alcohol, cigarettes, fireworks, lottery tickets, pornography, or marijuana.
Penalties for Using a Fraudulent ID in California
Possession of a fake ID is a wobbler offense, meaning it can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the specifics of your case. If charged as a misdemeanor, the sentence can include up to 1 year in jail or summary probation.
As a felony, a conviction carries a prison sentence of up to 3 years and up to $10,000 in fines. A criminal defense attorney may be able to have felony charges reduced to a misdemeanor.
The DMV will also revoke your license if you are caught with a fake driver’s license.
Defenses Against Fake ID Charges
There are many strong defenses against these charges. A good defense is arguing that you did not mean to use the ID fraudulently. For example, you did not violate the law if you own a novelty ID and accidentally mixed it up with your real license.
In other situations, you may argue that you did not know an ID was fake. For example, if someone stole your license and replaced it with a fraudulent copy, it would not be against the law to use the phony document since you did not know it was counterfeit.
Finally, you must have intended to use the ID for fraudulent purposes. Simply possessing the document is not inherently illegal. If there is no evidence you intended to defraud someone with the ID, the prosecution cannot secure a conviction.
With a top San Diego fake IDs lawyer on your side, you can escape a conviction by proving your innocence or negotiating a fair plea bargain based on the specifics of your case.
Related Criminal Charges
Providing a fake ID to a law enforcement officer is a misdemeanor offense under Vehicle Code section 31 (VC). This crime is punishable by up to 6 months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
Additionally, if you tried to impersonate another with false identification to obtain services or goods, you will also be charged with false impersonation under California penal code 13004 (PC). This charge can be filed along with 470b (PC) if your fake ID depicted a real person, but you can also face these charges on their own if you attempted to use another person’s actual ID for fraudulent purposes. This crime is a wobbler, with a sentence of up to 3 years in prison.
Those who make fake IDs can face charges under 470a (PC), which carries the same sentence as using a false ID. If you used a forged government seal on the document, you could also face charges under 472 (PC), which also carries penalties of up to 3 years in prison.
California Vehicle Code sections 13004 and 14610 (VC) are similar but less serious crimes involving the use of a fake ID or driver’s license. The violation of either of these laws is punishable by up to 6 months in jail and a fine of $1,000. For this reason, your criminal defense lawyer may attempt to have charges related to misusing a fake identification card or driver’s license reduced to one of these charges.
If you have been charged with using or possessing a fake driver’s license or another type of fraudulent identification, please contact Peter M. Liss, a top criminal attorney. Call (760) 643-4050 or (858) 486-3024 at any time to schedule a free initial consultation.