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What Happens if You Get Caught With a Fake ID?

Legal Assistant Criminal Law, Resources

A fake ID is almost a rite of passage in American culture. It may seem harmless if you’re a college student who just wants to hang out with their friends at a bar or watch a once-in-a-lifetime concert at a 21-plus venue.

The only problem is – you’ve not yet turned 21. So, you get a fake ID that grants you access to all those venues. As innocent as it might seem, what you may not be aware of is the fact that you could get into quite a bit of legal trouble if you get caught.

What happens if you get caught with a fake ID? Here’s everything you need to know.

Is It Illegal To Have a Fake ID?

Fake ID laws in different states across the country generally define a fake ID as – Any government-issued legal identification card that has been:

  • Altered
  • Counterfeited
  • Duplicated
  • Falsified
  • Forged
  • Reproduced

If a law enforcement officer finds you in possession of a fake ID, you could be charged with a misdemeanor or felony.

touch id on smartphone

Keep in mind that even if you “borrowed” your older sibling’s driver’s license and tried to pass it off as your own, that would still constitute a crime. The fact that the true owner was aware doesn’t change anything.

Fake ID Misdemeanor

While the exact charges of being arrested for possession of a fake ID vary depending on the state you live in, more often than not, it is charged as a misdemeanor. In some states like California, a criminal attorney may get it reduced to a minor infraction.

The misdemeanor penalty for Fake ID possession includes, but is not limited to:

  • A jail term not exceeding one year in a county jail
  • Summary probation
  • Community service
  • Monetary fines whose limits vary by state

In some states, the penalties for using a borrowed ID are less severe than using a forged document obtained from fake ID sites.

Fake ID Felony

Some states take fake ID possession quite seriously. In Illinois and Florida, for instance, you could face full-on felony charges if you’re caught using a fake ID – as outrageous as it sounds.

So, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the laws in your state before you go ahead and get a fake driver’s license. You might be grossly underestimating the severity of the consequences that await you should you get caught.

Nonetheless, the severity of the charges leveled against you depends on what you were caught using it for. Very rarely will an underage child be charged with a class 4 felony for using a fake ID to get into a bar.

Keep in mind as well that getting charged isn’t the same thing as being convicted. If you’re a first-time offender, a conviction would be a bit of a stretch. The felony penalties for Fake ID possession include, but are not limited to:

  • Up to 3 years in state prison (the maximum term may vary by state)
  • Formal probation
  • Community service
  • Monetary fines whose limits vary by state

If you are a university student, that’s only part of the nightmare. Here’s what could potentially happen.

  • Your parking privileges could get suspended
  • You could be expelled from university housing
  • You could be expelled from the university itself
  • You could face temporary suspension or permanent dismissal from university groups, clubs, or organizations
  • You could be denied access to university facilities

That’s not all, though. You could even get your driver’s license suspended for up to three years. So, while using a fake or stolen ID might seem innocent enough at the time, it may have far-reaching repercussions that you failed to take into account.

False Impersonation

As defined by state and federal statutes, a false impersonation crime refers to the act of using another person’s name or identity – fictitious or otherwise – to gain an unjust advantage or cause harm to the real person. To prove that a crime of impersonation occurred, prosecutors have to prove that:

  1. Bond or bail was posted for an individual using someone’s else’s name or identity
  2. The defendant provided, acknowledged, published, and verified a document in someone else’s name and passed it off as true. A classic example of this would be cashing a check made out to another individual
  3. The act committed using the other person’s identity would cause them to be criminally or civilly liable

Here’s an example of false impersonation.

You borrowed your friend’s car for the day to run a few errands in town. You got distracted by a phone call and rear-ended the car in front of you. You panic since you were driving without a valid license.

When the other driver asks you your name, you give your friend’s name instead (the owner of the car). In such an instance, you could be charged with false impersonation since you represented yourself as another individual in a situation that could expose them to civil liability.

man showing united states of america passport

How to Check if Your ID Has Been Stolen

Here are some warning signs to look out for if you suspect that someone has stolen your identity.

  • Your bank account has withdrawals that you can’t explain
  • You get calls from collection agencies about debts you didn’t incur
  • Your credit report displays unfamiliar accounts or charges
  • You get a notice from the IRS about one or more tax returns that were filed in your name or income reported from an employer that you don’t work for
  • Your health care plan rejects your legitimate medical claim on the basis that you’ve exhausted your cover limit, an assertion that seems outrageous in your opinion

The Federal Trade Commission is the agency charged with handling most identity theft complaints. If you suspect that someone is fraudulently using your identity, visit to file a report and get a recovery plan.

Ignorance of the Law Is Not a Defense

The bottom line: Fake IDs aren’t as casual as your friends play them off to be. If you’re busted for using one, you could be looking at some pretty hefty fines or time behind bars, or both. Take the time to research what the specific laws in your state have to say about it.

If you’ve been charged for possession of a fake ID, get in touch with a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to help you fight those charges.

If you have any legal queries, chat online with a attorney today.