California driver's licenses are government issued IDs that grant you specific privileges, specifically driving privileges. Because driver's licenses are government issued, the fraudulent possession or display of them are serious offenses. Under California Penal Code § 470(b), those who possess, display, or cause to display a fraudulent driver's license, or any other fraudulent government-issued ID, with the intent to commit forgery with the ID, can be charged with either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances. This is what is termed a wobbler crime in California, as the facts and circumstances of the crime as well as the criminal background of the defendant will be taken into consideration during sentencing. It is important to stop here and explain just what constitutes a fake driver's license. The license itself could be a valid governmental ID, but must be altered. A fake driver's license or governmental-issued ID is one that is reproduced, duplicated, counterfeited, altered, forged, or otherwise falsified in some way. It is the altering of the license that makes it fraudulent.
If charged as a misdemeanor, the defendant will face up to one year in a county jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000. If charged as a felony, the defendant will face up to three years in a state prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000. The difference between the two charges is significant. If you are facing fake driver's license charges in California, consult with an experienced California criminal defense attorney right away. The prosecution's job in convicting you does not end at your arrest; certain elements must be present for you to be convicted. In order to be convicted of possessing or displaying a fake driver's license, the prosecutor must prove a few things. First, it must be proven that you knowingly displayed or possessed a fake driver's license. If you did not display the license and/or did not have it knowingly in your possession, you cannot be charged. It also must be proven that you knew the license was a fake. This is a very crucial element in fake driver's license cases. Your driver's license could have been taken from you without your knowledge, altered or reproduced, and returned to you. If you were not aware your license was taken and altered, you cannot be charged. Lastly, it must be proven that you held or displayed said license with the intent of defrauding someone or some entity. If you possessed a novelty driver's license for entertainment purposes and had no intent of using it to commit forgery, you cannot be charged. Novelty driver's licenses and IDs are all too easy to obtain from individuals or online and can be used for a number of purposes other than committing forgery, such as costumes, theatre, or your own personal amusement. However, you may need the services of a skilled attorney to prove you had no intent to commit forgery with the ID and that it was clearly only for novelty purposes.
Whether or not you were successful in committed forgery with the driver's license does not matter. Likewise, whether or not you had the driver's license on your physical person doesn't matter. You can be charged even if a fake driver's license was found in your car or house, rather than on your person. It is also important to keep in mind that if you used a fake driver's license to unlawfully purchase alcohol while under age, you may face an alcohol-related charge. Similarly, you may face additional criminal charges if you used the fake license to commit some other crime, such as falsely impersonating yourself to an officer of the law or withdrawing money from someone else's bank account. Possessing or displaying a fake driver's license is a serious charge and one that is heavily prosecuted in California. If you are facing this charge, speak with a California criminal defense attorney about your rights today.
If you or a loved one has recently been arrested and are being charged with possessing or displaying a fake driver's license in the Tulare, Fresno or Kings County area, call experienced criminal defense attorney Christopher Martens today for expert counsel. At The Law Offices of Christopher Martens, we can listen to your story and help you prepare a strategic defense to ensure you the best possible outcome for your case. Contact our Visalia or Hanford, CA offices at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] to discuss a possible plan of action for your case.