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Fake IDs in California: The Consequences & Defenses

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When possessing or creating a fake id in California, the laws are no joke. Here they are spelled out, along with the possible consequences of being caught and the defenses that can be used to fight a conviction.

California’s Fake Identification Laws

A fake identification as defined by law is any identification card normally issued by a government agency that has been:
  • Altered
  • Falsified
  • Forged
  • Duplicated
  • Reproduced
  • Counterfeited
The types of government-issued IDs that are covered by law include:
  • Driver’s License
  • Non-driver’s license ID card issued by the California DMV
  • Military ID
  • State or federal employee ID card
  • Social security card
  • Passport
  • Seal of a government entity

Possessing a Fake ID

The basic activities that can result in a conviction are that you have control over a fake ID or have the right to control it. If it is found in your car or home, you will be in trouble. Note that it is possible for more than one person to “possess” the fake ID. If you refuse to show your id to an officer who asks to see it, you are also breaking the law.

Creating a Fake ID

California law punishes people who manufacture or sell a fake government-issued identification with the intent to commit a forgery or allow another person to commit a forgery.

Possible Consequences for Breaking the Law

In California, there are serious consequences for breaking the fake ID laws. To determine your penalty, prosecutors will consider the exact nature of the allegations along with your criminal history.

Possessing a Fake ID

Depending on the circumstances, you can be charged with either a misdemeanor or a felony for possessing a fake ID. Penalties range from one year in county jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000 to a potential three years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000.

Creating a Fake ID

First of all, any equipment suspected of being used to manufacture a fake id will be confiscated. This includes your computer, printer, software, etc. Second, if you are charged with a misdemeanor, you can receive up to one year in county jail and have to pay a fine of $1,000. If you are charged with a felony, you can receive up to three years in prison and have to pay a fine of $10,000. Finally, you can be charged with telecommunications fraud if you download illegal templates or transmit a fake id online. This charge can carry a penalty of up to a year in prison and up to a $2,000 fine, in addition to the penalties of any other charges. Creating a fake ID

Defenses Used by a Criminal Defense Lawyer

There are a number of defenses that a criminal defense lawyer can explore and employ in order to be sure you are treated fairly at your trial.

Possessing a Fake ID

You can be found guilty only if it is proven that you knew the ID was forged, altered, duplicated, etc. To be found guilty, is also has to be proven that you not only knew you possessed a fake ID but that you intended to use it to commit a forgery, such as to deceive another person or to cause a loss of, or damage to, a legal, financial, or property right. Another defense that could be used is that the fake ID did not actually belong to you or that you didn’t have the right to control it.

Creating a Fake ID

You may not be breaking any laws if you are merely printing ids for “novelty purposes only” such as a hobby or a joke, if what you were doing could not deprive anyone else of their legal rights, or if you are being falsely accused of selling fake IDs. Just because you are arrested and charged with possessing or creating a fake id doesn’t mean you are guilty and/or have to suffer the severest consequences. If you are caught or accused of possessing or creating a fake ID, be sure you get the proper legal protection so you and your family won’t have to needlessly suffer the consequences.

What happens if you get caught using a fake ID?

Fake I.D. laws are different in each state. More often than not, using a fake I.D. is a misdemeanor. But you can be charged with a felony in some states, especially if your actions endanger others; examples are driving with a fake license or buying a gun. And there are some states that level a felony charge for possession of any fake government I.D.   What happens if you get caught with a fake I.D.? Below are the usual punishments:
  • Fines are one of the most common consequences. The amount varies over a wide range. A felony violation can carry a $100,000 fine, in some cases, but misdemeanors are usually around $500. It’s not unusual for the state to fine around $1,000 for someone’s first violation.
  • Probation is another common punishment, which may be in addition to fines. During probation, the convicted person has to obey a judge’s orders to follow certain rules for a time—often around 12 months, but this can vary case-by-case. The person may have to stay in touch with a probation officer, ask permission if he or she wants to leave town, avoid certain people with a criminal background, hold onto a job—and still pay fines, as well as court and probation costs in addition. If any of these terms are violated, the probation can be lengthened or jail time may be added.
  • Jail is an uncommon sentence, especially if you’re a first-time offender, even if state laws call for it. Usually, jail is avoided for the first offense of a misdemeanor. If a jail sentence is imposed, it often is for around 90 days. Rarer cases will involve jail time from one to ten years.

Consequences & defenses

Possessing a fake ID can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony, which is sometimes referred to as a “wobbler”. The severity of the charge will depend on the circumstances surrounding the case. If you’re just in possession of a fake ID it could possibly just be charged as a misdemeanor. However, trying to purchase alcohol with a fake ID or being pulled over for drunk driving can up the charge to a felony charge. Obviously, creating fake IDs and being in possession of more than one is more severe than just being in possession of one. So what are my possible defenses?
  • You did not know that the license or I.D. card was fake,
  • You didn’t intend to commit fraud (meaning you didn’t intend to use it to deceive another person), or
  • You didn’t actually possess the fake I.D. (meaning that while it may have been in your house, for example, it actually belongs to someone else)

Hiring an attorney

 If it seems like you’re going to be charged for a crime involving a fake I.D., consider retaining the services of the Bradley Corbett team of San Diego defense lawyers. We can make the process much less stressful, because we’ve guided clients through it before. Our lawyers are experienced in the best methods to fight in your defense. We will work to free you from charges or lessen the punishment.  We know that any criminal charge can cause emotional stress, and we understand you’re going through that right now. Our mission is to reduce that stress by creating a high-quality, expert defense for you. For a free, no-obligation meeting to discuss your situation, call our San Diego office or visit us in person.  

Bradley Corbett

Bradley Corbett is a criminal defense attorney in San Diego. He graduated from Brigham Young University in Provo Utah in 2004. Later he enrolled at Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego where he participated in a prestigious internship program with the Los Angeles County Public Defender. Since then he has handled over 2,000 cases.

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