California Fake ID Laws
If you are caught with a fake ID in California you could face some serious consequences. Under California Penal Code 470b PC it is a crime to possess a fake ID with the intent to use it to deceive or defraud another person. Prosecutors can charge this crime as either a misdemeanor or a felony. If convicted, you could face a sentence as lenient as summary probation or as harsh as 3 years in California state prison.
If you or someone you know has been arrested and/or charged with having a fake ID you should contact a criminal lawyer immediately. The criminal and non-criminal consequences associated with a conviction can change your life forever. Hiring a criminal defense attorney to lead your defense can help you avoid unnecessary or unwarranted punishments for exercising poor judgment.
California Penal Code 470b PC
California Penal Code 470b PC makes it a crime to display or possess any driver’s license or government issued identification (as listed in Section 470a) with the intent to use it to commit a forgery. So…what does this mean? We’ve broken down the elements of 470b PC so that it is easier to understand what the crime of having or using a fake ID entails.
What is a fake ID?
A fake ID is defined as either a driver’s license or a government-issued identification card that has been altered, forged, duplicated, reproduced or counterfeited. Essentially, if you have a government issued ID and change it (or cause it to be changed) in any way, it could be a fake ID. Commonly altered government identification cards may include:
- California or other state driver’s license;
- United States passport;
- Social Security card;
- Government employment identification card; and
- Military ID.
What is possession of a fake ID?
In addition to having a fake ID you must also either display or possess it. Displaying is fairly straightforward – you show your fake ID to another person, or alternatively, it is seen while in your possession.
Possession does not necessarily mean, however, that it has to be physically on you. Possession can be actual or constructive. Actual possession means that it is physically on your body or clothes. Constructive possession means that it is in a place or location over which you exercise control. If a fake ID is found in your car, home, or wallet, police may be able to prove that you exercised enough control over those locations that it can be considered to be your fake ID.
What is intent to commit a forgery?
It is not enough to be in possession of a fake ID – you must also have the intent to use that fake ID to commit a forgery. Here, forgery means (1) using the fake ID to deceive another person, and (2) “cause loss or damage to a legal, financial, or property right.” Basically, the crime outlined in California Penal Code 470b PC occurs when you have possession of a fake ID and use it to deceive another person.
Examples of using a fake ID to commit a forgery could include:
- Changing the birthdate on a California driver’s license to deceive a bartender or liquor store clerk into believing you are over the age of 21;
- Placing your picture on a military ID to deceive a restaurant or store into believing that you are in the military in order to receive a discount.
Penalties for Fake ID Possession in California
Possessing a fake ID in California can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. The severity of the charge will depend on the facts of each individual case, the prior criminal record of the accused, and the severity of the offense.
Misdemeanor possession of a fake ID may be punished by up to 1 year in jail, summary probation, community service, and/or monetary fines up to $1,000.
Felony possession of a fake ID may be punished by up to 3 years in state prison, formal probation, community service, and/or monetary fines up to $10,000.
If you are caught with a fake ID in California you may also have your driver’s license revoked for up to a year. If you are not yet old enough to have your driver’s license, or have not yet received it for another reason, you may be required to wait an additional year to obtain it.
Defenses to Having a Fake ID in California
If you have been accused and/or arrested for having a fake ID in California you should contact a criminal defense attorney immediately. The crime itself may seem minor, but the consequences can be significant. A criminal record can seriously affect your ability to get a job, rent an apartment, or get approved for a loan. An experienced California criminal defense attorney can help to ensure that your legal rights are protected and that you are not punished for an offense you did not commit.
The prosecution will have to prove each of the elements of the crime discussed above. Given the evidence that is required – including proving your intent to commit a forgery – that can prove to be challenging. A skilled criminal defense attorney can craft a powerful defense that makes it more difficult for the prosecution to successfully establish their burden of proof. Common defenses to possession of a fake ID in California include:
- Lack of knowledge. You must know that the ID you possess is fake in order to be guilty of this crime.
- Lack of intent. You must intend to use the fake ID to commit a forgery.
- Lack of possession. You must have possession of the fake ID. If you are being charged based on constructive possession, an attorney can fight to disprove the prosecution’s argument.
If you have been arrested and/or charged with having a fake ID in California contact the Law Office of Vikas Bajaj for a free consultation today.
Law Office of Vikas Bajaj, APC