The business of providing false identifications is no small venture. High-quality fake IDs sell anywhere from $50 – $200. For a single, online operator, sales can exceed $1M, illustrating that false IDs are in demand. Some fake ID operators receive 10,000 inquiries on a single day; however, smaller operations exist as well, especially on college campuses. You may have a suitemate or a friend on campus that has quite the underground operation.
Some may think it’s a teenager’s right of passage to acquire a fake ID, whether through purchase, obtaining one from an older friend, or altering a legal ID. However, using a fake ID in any jurisdiction comes with heavy penalties.
According to Real Identities, LLC, a Silicon Valley company that teaches gatekeepers to check IDs thoroughly, a significant number of statistics exist regarding underage drinking and driving. However, these findings aren’t broken down into valid ID vs. fake ID. For example, underage drinking costs the United States approximately $57 billion annually. But, statistics tying fake IDS to underage drinking, or any other activity, are severely lacking.
Penalties for Possessing a Fake ID
Currently, 56 jurisdictions in the United States issue legal, government driver licenses and non-driver identifications, including all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories. Each jurisdiction updates their government-issued IDs frequently, including modernizing sophisticated security features, making it more difficult to create false identifications. Additionally, each jurisdiction has penalties for using a fake ID, for the purchase of alcohol by minors or for any other reason.
Obtaining and using a fake ID is not just fun and games. It’s a serious criminal offense carrying severe penalties, such as suspension of your license, hefty fines, or even jail time.
Since approaching all 56 jurisdictions may be too voluminous, let’s focus on what happens if you use a fake ID in Pennsylvania or New Jersey.
Using a Fake ID in Pennsylvania
Let’s first look at using a fake ID in Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes address the illegal use of a fake ID in three areas:
- Carrying a false identification card
- Presenting a false ID to law enforcement
- Using a fake ID to purchase, consume, possess, or transport alcohol
Let’s address them one by one:
Carrying a False Identification
As either a minor or an adult, if you are caught carrying a fake ID, you’ve committed a summary offense. In Pennsylvania, a summary offense is a minor type of criminal offense, often called a non-traffic citation. For a summary offense in Pennsylvania, you could face up to 90 days in jail and a fine up to $300. Often, a summary offense will not carry jail time but will result in a monetary penalty.
If this is your first offense, then the court may require you to participate in a pre-adjudication program, which can include community work, counseling, or other self-improvement activities. If you complete the program successfully, the court may dismiss any pending charges against you, relieving you of any potential jail time or fines.
However, if you’re caught subsequently for carrying false identification, and you’re under the age of 21, then you’ll face a misdemeanor of the third degree. For this offense, you may have to pay a fine not to exceed $500. Further, the police are required to notify your parents or guardians if you’re charged for either a first or subsequent use of a fake ID.
Presenting a Fake ID to Law Enforcement
If a law enforcement agent identifies himself or herself as an officer, then you are required to show a validly issued, government identification. If you furnish the authorities with false information about your identification, such as a fake ID, then you can be convicted of a misdemeanor in the third degree, which could include six months to a year in prison and a fine up to $2,500.
Using a Fake ID to Purchase, Consume, Possess, or Transport Alcohol
If you attempt to purchase, consume, possess, or transport alcohol in Pennsylvania and you’re less than 21 years old – with or without a fake ID – you can be fined up to $500 for your first violation and up to $1,000 for each subsequent violation. The police are also required to notify your parents or guardians of your offense.
For your first offense, the judge may admit you to a pre-adjudication disposition program, where you’ll perform community service or counseling. However, this is only available for your first offense, and if you haven’t participated in a similar program for any other crimes previously. If you complete the program successfully, the court may dismiss any pending charges against you, relieving you of any potential jail time or fines.
Using a Fake ID in New Jersey
Now, let’s turn to New Jersey. The New Jersey Statutes address the illegal use of a fake ID in four areas:
- Displaying a fake ID
- Possessing a fake ID
- Selling or making fake IDs
- Juveniles with fake IDs
Let’s address these issues one by one:
Displaying a Fake ID
According to New Jersey law, anyone who knowingly exhibits, displays, or utters a document or other writing “which falsely purports to be a driver’s license, birth certificate or other document issued by a governmental agency and which could be used as a means of verifying a person’s identity or age or any other personal identifying information is guilty of a crime of the third degree.” A third-degree crime in New Jersey includes a maximum jail sentence of five years and a fine not to exceed $15,000.
Possessing a Fake ID
If you knowingly possess a fake ID, whether it’s a driver’s license or a birth certificate, you can be found guilty of a crime in the fourth degree. In New Jersey, a fourth-degree crime is a felony. If convicted, it can result in a criminal record, and penalties of up to 18 months in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.
Selling or Making Fake IDs
In New Jersey, if you knowingly sell, offer, or make fake IDs, you can also face criminal penalties. For these actions, if convicted, you could be found guilty of a crime in the second degree. Second-degree crimes are severe. Even if it’s your first offense, you can expect to serve jail time. Typically, second-degree crimes in New Jersey are punishable by five to 10 years in state prison and up to $15,000 in fines.
As a juvenile, you could also be found guilty of a second-degree crime, potentially spending up to three years in criminal detention. However, for minors, more often than not, you would be convicted of a fourth-degree crime, allowing you to be eligible for a pre-trial intervention program. Similar to the mention of intervention programs above, if you complete this program, your criminal charges will often be dismissed entirely, expunging your record of any criminal infractions.
Possessing a Fake ID as a Juvenile
The State of New Jersey punishes adults possessing and using fake IDs more harshly than minors. If a minor possesses a phony ID, the penalty is less severe. You would face a maximum of six months in jail, and a fine up to $1,000 – as opposed to $15,000 – and a suspension of your driving privileges.
No matter if you’re an adult or a minor, the possession of a fake ID is a poor idea. Although it can be tempting to possess false identification, especially as a teenager or college student, it could really set your life back.
Using a Fake ID to Purchase, Consume, or Possess Alcohol
In New Jersey, like most other states, it’s illegal to purchase, consume, or possess alcohol if you’re under the age of 21. If caught, you can be charged with a disorderly person offense, which includes up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. A disorderly person offense is often considered a misdemeanor in other states.
If you’re under the age of 18, the judge may require you to face juvenile delinquency hearings, since you won’t be charged as an adult. If you’re over 18 but younger than 21, you will face charges as an adult, resulting in fines between $500 and $1,000 and possible jail time of up to 180 days. The judge may also require you to attend an alcohol awareness program, a treatment program, or counseling, ensuring that your behavior will not occur again.
And, don’t think you can talk your way out of any penalties. If you’re under the age of 21, and you are caught with alcohol in your system, New Jersey enforces a zero-tolerance standard.
Contact The Marrone Law Firm, LLC For Legal Assistance Today
It’s easy to feel as though everything is against you when you’re accused of a crime – whether you’re an adult or a minor. Not only are you worried about potential repercussions, but your job, your relationship, and your reputation may be on the line. Fortunately, you don’t have to face criminal charges on your own. A skilled criminal defense attorney at the Marrone Law Firm, LLC, is ready to meet with you and discuss your situation. Don’t go it alone. Contact us today.
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