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Is Using a Fake ID Considered Identity Theft?

For many college students in the East Bay, at UC Berkeley and California East Bay, a fake ID may not seem like a big deal. A fake driver's license is not that hard to come by. It may only take a few hours to get a fake California Driver's License in Oakland, which can be used to get into bars or buy alcohol at a convenience store. Students even know which stores and bars are more likely to let someone in with a questionable ID. 

However, getting a fake ID and using it to act as another person can be against the law. In most cases, a bartender or clerk will simply refuse entry or take the card away. If the police find you with a fake ID, it can be more problematic. If you were using a fake ID to commit fraud, it can lead to criminal charges for identity theft. 

If you are arrested after using a false driver's license, contact an experienced California defense lawyer in Alameda or Contra Costa County who can explain your rights and legal defense options to reduce the risk of ending up with a criminal record. 

Possession of a Fake Driver's License

Having a fake ID can be a criminal offense all by itself when it is used to try and convince someone that it is real. This includes trying to use it to get into a club, buy alcohol, recreational marijuana, or fill a prescription under someone else's name.  Alcoholic Beverages and Control often target stores that are frequented by UC Students.  

Under California Penal Code Section 470b, it is an offense for “every person who displays or causes or permits to be displayed or has in his or her possession any driver's license or identification card” with the intent that the driver's license or identification card be used to facilitate the commission of any forgery

This includes an altered, falsified, forged, duplicated, reproduced, or counterfeit government-issued ID. Committing a forgery means that the individual intends to use the fake ID to cause a loss of, or damage to, a legal, financial, or property right. Even using the card to try and buy beer is considered an intent to commit forgery. 

If convicted of a misdemeanor, the penalties for possession of a fake ID include a fine of up to $1,000 and up to a year in county jail. However, most first-time offenders are able to avoid jail time for having a fake ID. 

Forgery of a Fake ID or Theft of Someone's ID

It is also a serious offense to be charged with forging or counterfeiting a driver's license. Under PC 470a, it is a crime to alter, falsify, forge, duplicate, reproduce, or counterfeit any driver's license or government ID. This includes creating a fake ID or altering someone's existing ID to be used to pass off as someone else's license. 

Other Penalties for Using a Fake ID to Buy Alcohol

Under California Business and Professions Code Section 25661, there are specific penalties for someone under the age of 21 to use a fake ID to buy alcohol or gain entry to bars or clubs. It is a misdemeanor violation and the penalties include a fine of not less than $250 and up to 32 hours of community service. A second violation includes a penalty of up to $500 and up to 48 hours of community service. 

Identity Theft in California 

Identity theft is a serious offense and can be charged as a felony. What is the difference between using a fake ID and identity theft? Generally, identity theft involves using the personal identifying information of another for an unlawful purpose. For example, using someone's ID to buy alcohol at a liquor store is generally treated as using a fake ID. However, using someone's ID to cash a check or get health care would generally be treated as identity theft. 

Under California Penal Code 530.5, the elements of identity theft include:

  1. The defendant willfully obtained someone else's personal identifying information; 
  2. The defendant willfully used the information for an unlawful purpose; and
  3. The information was used without the consent of the other person.

An unlawful purpose includes unlawfully obtaining or attempting to obtain credit, goods, services, property, or medical information without the consent of the other person.

Like using a fake ID, “it is not necessary that anyone actually be defrauded or actually suffer a financial, legal, or property loss as a result of the defendant's acts.”

Legal Advice After Getting Busted With a Fake ID in the East Bay

Like a lot of other criminal arrests that impact young people, there is a lot of misinformation floating around. It is not a defense to possession of a fake ID if it didn't work. For example, if you go to a gas station and try to buy beer with a fake ID, if the clerk refuses to sell the alcohol, that does not mean you are in the clear. The intent to use the fake ID is enough. Even if your fake ID doesn't work, you can still face criminal charges. 

Just because your friends used a fake ID and have had no problem does not mean that you will be as lucky. If you do get busted, it is important to know that you have the right to legal counsel. An experienced attorney can deal with the prosecutor so you don't have to think about what a criminal record will mean for your future. Your attorney can negotiate a plea deal to avoid criminal charges, get the charges dropped, or fight for you in court to make sure your record is clear.  It is important to do keep your criminal history clear as you begin your professional careers. 

East Bay attorney Lynn Gorelick has more than 38 years of criminal defense experience and understands the consequences involved for college students arrested for using a fake ID. Representing individuals in Contra Costa and Alameda County, Lynn Gorelick is familiar with the local criminal defense laws, local officers, and the prosecutors involved. Contact East Bay DUI lawyer Lynn Gorelick today..

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