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Is It a Crime to Have a Fake ID in California?

November 5, 2019

Having a fake ID can lead to criminal charges — even if you are 21 or older

Is It a Crime to Have a Fake ID in California?

Fake IDs may seem like something for high school and college students. Yet there are some older Californians who possess fake identification cards for a variety of reasons. Unfortunately for them, having a fake ID may lead to criminal charges.

According to a criminal lawyer Orange County, CA, a fake ID is any driver’s license or other identification card issued by a governmental agency that has been altered, falsified, forged, duplicated, reproduced, or counterfeited. While simply having a fake ID isn’t necessarily a crime, if you display or possess a fake ID with the intent to commit a forgery (a fraud), then you could be charged with a crime.

So when can you be charged with a crime for having a fake ID? To prove that you committed this crime, a prosecutor will have to demonstrate four elements:

  1. You possessed, displayed, or caused or permitted to be displayed a driver's license or other government-issued identification card;
  2. The driver's license or other government-issued ID was altered, falsified, forged, duplicated, reproduced, or counterfeited;
  3. You knew that the license or ID was altered, falsified, forged, etc.; and
  4. When you possessed or displayed the identification document, you intended that that document would be used to commit forgery.

Under this law, a government-issued identification card includes a wide range of ID cards — not just driver’s licenses. This means state identification cards, social security cards, US passports, military IDs, and state or federal employee identification cards. If the ID card has been issued by the government, then it qualifies under this law.

This doesn’t mean that only real IDs that have been altered will be considered fake IDs. If you make a reproduction of an identification card or forge an ID card, it will be deemed a fake ID. However, you must have knowledge that the license or ID was altered, forged or falsified.

Finally, as a criminal lawyer Orange County, CA can explain, you must have intended to use the document to commit a forgery. This means that you meant to use it to deceive another person or to cause a loss of or damage to a legal, financial or property right to another person. This could happen in a number of ways. For example, a person under the age of 21 using a fake ID to purchase alcohol intends to deceive someone. A person using a fake ID to get government benefits intends to deprive another person of their financial rights.

Significantly, if you possess a fake ID without any intent to use it for this type of purpose, then you are not guilty of this crime. This is true even if you knew that the ID was fake. A skilled criminal lawyer Orange County, CA can argue that even though you had a fake ID in your possession, you never used it to commit a forgery (fraud), and never had any intent to use it.

A fake identification charge is a wobbler, which means that it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the nature of the allegations and your criminal history. If charged as a misdemeanor, it is punishable by misdemeanor probation, up to 1 year in county jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000. If charged as a felony, it is punishable by felony probation, between 16 months and 3 years in county jail and/or a fine of up to $10,000.

If you have been charged with a crime related to having a fake ID, we can help. The legal professionals of the Chambers Law Firm are highly experienced and dedicated to working with our clients to achieve the best possible result. Contact us today at 855-397-0210 or dchambers@clfca.com to schedule a free initial consultation with a criminal lawyer Orange County, CA.

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