If you tried to pass someone else’s ID card as your own, or if you let someone else use your ID card unlawfully, you may be guilty of Unlawful Use of ID Cards under Vehicle Code section 13004. This is a misdemeanor offense for which a defendant may face up to 6 months in a county jail and a fine of up to $1,000. 1
Three 17-year-olds bought fake, out-of-state ID cards with their actual names on them, as opposed to false ones, paying $100 each for them, and then took turns buying a lot of alcohol at a busy local liquor for a summer break party. When the liquor store owner recognized one of the teenagers, he called the police.
Vehicle Code section 13004 defines unlawful use of ID cards as follows: it is unlawful for anyone to do any of the following:
- To display or cause or permit to be displayed or have in his possession any canceled, fictitious, fraudulently altered, or fraudulently obtained identification card.
- To lend his identification card to any other person or knowingly permit the use thereof by another.
- To display or represent any identification card not issued to him as being his card.
- To permit any unlawful use of an identification card issued to him.
- To do any act forbidden or fail to perform any act required by this article.
- To photograph, photostat, duplicate, or in any way reproduce any identification card or facsimile thereof in such a manner that it could be mistaken for a valid identification card, or to display or have in his possession any such photograph, photostat, duplicate, reproduction, or facsimile unless authorized by the provisions of this code.
- To alter any identification card in any manner not authorized by this code.2
- A woman who is an illegal immigrant pays for a fake ID so she can apply for a job.
- Jane and Sarah, who are underage, purchase fake ID cards that represent that they are 25 years old, and go dancing at the new night club.
- John is underage but he was told to bring alcohol to a spring break party and he does not want to disappoint. He takes his older brother’s ID without his permission and goes to the liquor store to buy alcohol and is caught.
In all the examples above, defendants can be faced with serious repercussions, such as license suspension, fines and possible jail time if they are charged with unlawful use of ID cards under Vehicle Code section 13004. Also, beware that when you use a fake, or someone else’s identification card, or knowingly let someone else use your identification, depending on the purpose you do so, you may commit an additional crime in the process, such as “identity theft” under Penal Code §530.5, or “forgery,” under Penal Code section 470 et. seq., which can subject you to additional charges or penalties.
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To prove that you are guilty of this offense, the prosecutor has to prove that the defendant used an identification card in any of the unlawful ways listed above with intent to defraud or deceive.3 Typically, this Vehicle Code section is most commonly violated in the following ways:
- Defendant used a fake, or someone else’s identification card, or knowingly allowed someone else to use his/her identification card to lie about his/her age (for example, when teenagers use a fake identification to misrepresent their real age to purchase alcohol or gain access to a night club); OR
- Defendant used a fake, or someone else’s identification card, or knowingly allowed someone else to use his/her identification card to misrepresent his/her legal status (for example, when an illegal immigrant used a fake identification card to misrepresent that she has legal status to work; or when a fleeing convict uses someone else’s identification card to misrepresent his/her identity to avoid arrest); OR
Lack of Knowledge: If you did not knowingly let someone else unlawfully use your identification card, you are not guilty of the offense. See the above example where the teenage boy secretly took the older brother’s ID card to buy alcohol. No Intent to Commit Fraud: If you used an identification card in an unlawful way, but did so without intent to defraud anyone, you are not guilty of the offense.
Example: A woman made a copy of her identification card and left it in her husband’s car glove compartment, thinking that it would be a good idea to have a copy for when she occasionally drives his car and forgets her driver’s license in another purse. When her husband’s car got broke into, the burglars stole the copy of the woman’s identification card and unlawfully used the card to commit identity theft.
Example: A man, who wanted to avoid waiting in line at the DMV, took his California identification card to a print shop to have the shop help him change his address on the card. The man honestly believed that it is lawful to do so. However, after the print shop told him that the law does not allow him to do that, he paid a friend $50 to have the address change done at the friend’s home. Although the man did not initially intent to commit the offense, he will be charged with the offense, because he proceeded with making changes to his ID even after he learned that it is not lawful for him to do so.
Identity theft under Penal Code §530.5: Anyone who uses the personal identity information of another without his/her consent and uses it in an unlawful way may be guilty of identity theft under Penal Code section 530.5.
Example: Using someone else’s identification card to obtain, or attempt to obtain, credit, goods, services, real property, or medical information.
Manufacturing or selling counterfeit identification cards, Vehicle Code 13004.1 VC: Anyone who manufactures or sells counterfeit identification cards may be guilty of Vehicle Code section 13004.1.
Forgery or Counterfeiting of Seals, Pen. Code, §472: Anyone who forges or possesses a forged California DMV “seal” on an official registration document such as car registration, may be guilty of this offense.
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