When you are the youngest member of your group of friends, nothing is more frustrating than not being able to join them at a bar or a club because you are underage. And while we all dream that in the event we get busted using a fake ID, it’s by cops as funny and friendly as those in Superbad, the reality is having and using a fake ID is a serious crime, and it comes with serious punishments.
Is it Illegal to Have a Fake ID?
Yes, it is illegal to have a fake ID or any type of false identification document. Even though movies like Superbad make it seem as though fake IDs are only used by underage kids to buy booze, having the right identification can give you access to purchasing alcohol, cashing a check, even renting an apartment, or getting a loan. Fake ID creation has never been easier, but it is a crime no matter where you live.
Fake ID laws pertain not just to the possession of a fake ID but to:
- Owning fake IDs
- Making fake IDs
- Selling fake IDs
- Altering legitimate documents
- Buying fake IDs
You can be charged with a crime just for using a fake ID to try to buy cigarettes when you are underage.
When an adult encourages a person under the age of 18 to engage in illegal activities, this is legally called contributing to the deli...
False identification laws don’t just punish the person who has a fake ID. They also punish the person whose ID it is.
For example, John is 22 and in college. He loans his younger brother, age 18, his ID so that the younger brother can get into a bar. The younger brother only wants to get into a bar once because it is where they are having a big going-away party for a close family friend. Using stolen IDs or even borrowed IDs is technically a crime. So even though the younger brother didn’t steal the ID from John, if caught, he can still be in trouble for possession. Similarly, depending on where they live, John can be in trouble for allowing another person to use his ID. Even if John didn’t know that his younger brother had borrowed his driver’s license, both of the boys could be in trouble.
What is the Penalty for Being Caught with a Fake ID?
There are many laws pertaining to false identification, and as such, there is a wide range of possible penalties if you are caught with a fake ID. Depending on the state in which you are caught and the circumstances, you can face jail, fines, or probation.
For example, someone getting caught with a fake ID trying to enter a bar will face less severe penalties than someone who was caught using a fake ID to purchase a firearm.
- Jail: If you are convicted of possession, you might go to jail. If you are convicted of a misdemeanor, you can face up to one year in jail. If you are convicted of a felony, you can face up to 10 years in jail.
- Fines: Fines are one of the more common penalties. If you are caught using a fake ID to get into a bar, and it’s the first time you’ve ever been charged with any crime, you might face a fine of $500, but if you are charged with a felony, you can face fines up to $100,000.
- Probation: Probation is a common sentence if you are convicted of possession of a fake ID. A judge may order that you are under probation with specific conditions for 12 months. These conditions usually include not leaving the local area, having a job, paying your probation fees, not engaging in criminal activity, and maintaining regular contact with a probation officer. Failure to adhere to your probation terms usually results in a jail sentence.
Is it Illegal to Have a Fake ID?
Yes. In every state, it is illegal, and you can face fake ID charges. In some states, you can face a misdemeanor. In New York, for example, criminal possession of a fake ID in the third degree is a misdemeanor that can result in up to one year in jail. Fake IDs in the state of California are technically misdemeanors as well.
Is Having a Fake ID a Felony?
In some states, yes. In states like Florida and Illinois, you can get arrested and charged with a felony. In Illinois, being charged with possession of a fake ID is a class 4 felony.
What Happens if You Get Caught with a Fake ID in a Felony state?
Of course, facing a felony fake ID charge doesn’t necessarily mean you will be convicted. Fake ID laws are there to prevent people from having possession of a fake or forged instrument. Most kids who get caught with a fake ID are using someone else’s driver’s license to buy alcohol. Some college students might be using a fake ID to get into a bar or club. In these situations, if you have a good criminal defense and you don’t have any criminal history, a law firm can try to fight for you to get a reduction in the penalties imposed.
In a state like California, where a fake ID charge is a misdemeanor, a law office might be able to get that misdemeanor reduced to an infraction if you have no criminal history and all you were caught doing was trying to get into a club or a bar.
However, even with a good defense attorney, if you are facing criminal charges for possession of a fake license or identification card that you were using to not only purchase alcohol but sell alcohol, you might face more severe penalties. Bars and restaurants that serve two people using fake IDs can face severe penalties, which is why they will usually turn over any identification card that they suspect is a fake ID to the police, or at the very least, not let you in and not serve you.
A good attorney-client relationship can help you build a solid defense for smaller infractions like this. The legal process in a state like Florida, where having a fake ID is a felony, might result in reducing your charges to a simple misdemeanor.
However, it’s important to understand that the basis or foundation for fake ID laws is to stop people from having forged documents of any kind. While we typically associate this with being a sophomoric college student, possession of fake IDs can be much more nefarious such as people owning or selling identification cards to illegal immigrants who don’t have citizenship or owning illegal passports so that they can travel under someone else’s name, or trying to avoid a criminal history by assuming the identity of another person. There are reasons that states like Florida make fake ID laws a felony; Florida has to contend with a lot of drug crime and illegal immigration, both of which can benefit from the use of fake IDs, and assets have to be punished severely.
Can Using a Fake ID Lead to Jail Time?
Yes, using a fake ID can lead to jail time. As mentioned, you will typically spend the night in jail if you are arrested for having a fake ID. If you are convicted of a misdemeanor, you can face between 90 days and one year depending on the state and up to 10 years if you are convicted of a felony.
What Happens if You Get Caught with a Fake ID?
So what happens if you get caught with a fake ID? Is it really that bad?
You Are Kicked Out
If you get caught with a fake ID trying to get into a bar, in most cases, they will just kick you out. Bars and restaurants, and other businesses that have an age restriction can face significant penalties and fines if they knowingly serve underage people. So in most cases, they will just kick you out.
Your ID is Taken
In other cases, they will take your fake ID and hand it over to the police. This can happen in bars, restaurants, or other facilities where you are using your identification to purchase a firearm, cash a check or otherwise engage in activities that require identity verification.
If you are just trying to get into a bar underage, they might take it and not return it, but they don’t turn it over to the police. So, using the example of John and his younger brother above, this means that John no longer has his driver’s license, and he has to go get a new one from the DMV.
You are Arrested
In the worst case, you are arrested and charged with a crime. In cases where a restaurant or bar confiscates your ID and gives it to the police, the police can follow up with you and make the arrest. Some facilities have police officers nearby.
For example: On a popular downtown street where there are five bars and six restaurants that serve alcohol, the local police might have four officers who patrol the street, walking up and down and available in the event that there are problems. In this circumstance, the manager of a bar who confiscates a fake ID might turn it over to the police who were outside, and then the police immediately arrest the person who tried to use it.
In the example of John and his younger brother, if the ID gets turned over to the police later, they might use the address on the ID and follow up with John, asking why someone caught on the security cameras was using his ID. This can result in an arrest later.
Overall, using a fake ID is a serious matter. Even though the perpetrators are typically college students who are just trying to buy alcohol or get into a bar, you can be arrested and charged with a misdemeanor or a felony for using a fake ID.