Having a Fake Driver's License or Identification Card
California Penal Code 470b PC

Charged with possessing or using a fake driver's license or I.D. card?  We can help.

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In this article, our California criminal fraud defense attorneys1 provide an overview to understanding Penal Code 470b PC: California's law against displaying or possessing a forged or counterfeit driver's license and/or I.D. card.

1. Penal Code 470b PC -- Displaying or Possessing a Fake Driver's License or Identification Card

California Penal Code 470b PC states,

"Every person who displays or causes or permits to be displayed or has in his possession any driver's license or identification card of the type enumerated in Section 470a with the intent that such driver's license or identification card be used to facilitate the commission of any forgery, is punishable by imprisonment in the state prison, or by imprisonment in the county jail for not more than one year."2

∗The reference to "Section 470a" is to Penal Code 470a PC California's law against forging or counterfeiting driver's licenses or I.D. cards (discussed in more detail under Section 4. Related Offenses).

Examples

"Forgery" is defined in Penal Code 470 PC California's forgery law as knowingly altering, manipulating, or creating a written document or instrument with the intent to obtain an undeserved personal gain.3

Counterfeiting is defined as altering, manipulating, or creating an imitation of an item intending to pass it off as genuine.

If you display or possess a driver's license or identification card that meets either of these criteria, you violate Penal Code 470b.

Some typical violations of this law may include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • you are under 18 and have a "fake" identification card or driver's license so that you can purchase cigarettes,
  • you are under 21 and hold a fake I.D. or license so that you can gain entry to bars / nightclubs or so that you can purchase alcohol,
  • you are an undocumented alien and possess a fake driver's license or identification card because you believe it will prevent you from being "hassled" by the police or because you can more easily obtain banking, benefits, etc. from being perceived as a citizen,
  • there is a California arrest warrant out for you, and you hold a fake license or I.D. card to avoid being recognized and arrested, or
  • you are involved in a larger fraud crime and possess the licenses or I.D. cards to help you cash someone else's check or other benefits (which...depending on the circumstances...could ultimately subject you to additional charges involving

Note that nothing in the code states that the fake license or I.D. card that you possess or display necessarily has to be a California driver's license or California identification card. Any government issued license or I.D. card will do.  As long as you display or possess the license or identification card in this state, you may be guilty of committing this offense.

2. Legal Defenses

There are a variety of legal defenses to California's law against possessing or displaying a forged of counterfeit driver's license or identification card that a skilled California criminal fraud defense attorney can present on your behalf.

You didn't know that the license / I.D. card was fake

If the prosecutor can't prove that you knew the license or identification card was counterfeit, you can't be convicted of this offense.5 This defense would work best for an individual who, for example, is not from this country and isn't accustomed to only being able to obtain official documents through government agencies.

You didn't intend to commit a fraud

On a similar note, if the prosecutor can't prove that you intended that your fake driver's license or identification card "be used to facilitate the commission of any forgery", you should be acquitted of this crime.

As Newport Beach criminal defense attorney John Murray6 explains, "You only "intend to commit a forgery' if you intend to use a forged or counterfeit document to deceive another person in order to cause a loss of, or damage to, a legal, financial, or property right."7

This means that if you didn't intend to deprive someone of a legal, financial, or property right, you aren't guilty of this offense...even if you were in possession or a counterfeit I.D. card or license.

But an important fact to understand is that it isn't necessary that anyone was actually deceived by your act.  All that is relevant to this offense is that you intended to commit a fraud.8 If, for example, you purchased the fake I.D. to get into a nightclub...but didn't actually use it...you could still be convicted of this offense for possessing the fraudulent card.

You didn't "possess" the fake I.D. card or driver's license

Let's say that the cops find a fraudulent I.D. card in your house.  If it exclusively belongs to someone else...you didn't possess the card.

And if you didn't possess the license or identification card, you aren't guilty of violating Penal Code 470b PC California's law against displaying or possessing a forged or fraudulent driver's license or I.D. card.

Possession doesn't have to be physical...it can also be what the law calls "constructive possession."9 This means that if you exercise control over the license or I.D. card, you can still violate this law even if the card isn't on your person.  Having the card in your home qualifies as constructive possession.

However, if it's not your card...perhaps someone accidentally left it in your home...you are not in constructive or physical possession of it.  Consequently, you are not in violation of this law.

3. Penalties, Punishment, and Sentencing

Most California fraud offenses are what are known as wobblers.  A "wobbler" is an offense that the prosecutor may elect to file as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on

  1. the facts of the case, and
  2. your criminal history.

If convicted of violating Penal Code 470b as a misdemeanor, you face up to one year in a county jail and a maximum $1,000 fine.

If convicted of this offense as a felony, you face 16 months, or two or three years in the California state prison and a maximum $10,000 fine.10

4. Related Offenses

Besides California Penal Code 470b PC, there are a number of other laws that deal with fraudulent driver's licenses and identification cards.  Some of these may be charged in addition to this offense - some may be charged in lieu of this offense.   Examples include (but are not limited to):

  • Penal Code 470a PC

Penal Code 470b prohibits displaying a driver's license or I.D. card that is in violation of Penal Code 470a. Penal Code 470a PC forging or counterfeiting a driver's license or identification card is the law that prohibits the actual forging or counterfeiting of these documents.

This offense is also a wobbler, subjecting you to the same penalties as Penal Code 470b PC.11

Vehicle Code 13004(g) VC -- Unlawful acts involving identification cards

If your offense exclusively involves an identification card rather than a driver's license, your California criminal defense lawyer may be able to convince the prosecutor to charge you with the less serious offense of Vehicle Code 13004(g) VC California's law against unlawful acts involving identification cards.

A violation of this misdemeanor only subjects you to a maximum six-month county jail sentence and a maximum $1,000 fine.12

Vehicle Code 13004.1 VC -- Manufacturing or selling counterfeit identification cards

Another offense that is (surprisingly) less serious than Penal Code 470b is Vehicle Code 13004.1 VC California's law against manufacturing or selling counterfeit identification cards.  This offense prohibits manufacturing or selling I.D. cards that are substantially similar to those issued by the California Department of Motor Vehicles.

This misdemeanor subjects you to a straight $1,000 fine and a minimum 24 hours of community service.13

Penal Code 472 PC -- Forging, counterfeiting, or possessing fraudulent public seals

If you are charged with any of the above offenses...including Penal Code 470b PC California's law against displaying or possessing a fraudulent driver's license or identification card, there is a good chance that you may be charged with Penal Code 472 PC as well.

Penal Code 472 PC California's law against forging, counterfeiting, or possessing a fraudulent public seal prohibits forging, counterfeiting, or possessing a fraudulent or counterfeit public seal (like the seal that appears on government issued licenses or I.D. cards).

This offense is also a wobbler, subjecting you to the same penalties and punishment as a Penal Code 470b PC conviction.14

Call us for help...
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If you or loved one is charged with Penal Code 470b PC fake driver's license and you are looking to hire an attorney for representation, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group. We can provide a free consultation in office or by phone. We have local offices in Los Angeles, the San Fernando Valley, Pasadena, Long Beach, Orange County, Ventura, San Bernardino, Rancho Cucamonga, Riverside, San Diego, Sacramento, Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose and throughout California.

You may also find helpful information in our related articles on California Fraud Laws; Penal Code 470 PC California's Forgery Law; Penal Code 470a PC Forging or Counterfeiting a Driver's License or Identification Card; Vehicle Code 13004(g) VC Unlawful Acts Involving Identification Cards; Vehicle Code 13004.1 VC Manufacturing or Selling Counterfeit Identification Cards; Penal Code 472 PC Forging, Counterfeiting, or Possessing Fraudulent Public Seals; Wobblers; Felonies; California Misdemeanors; and California Legal Defenses.

For information about Nevada fake ID law, go to our page on Nevada fake ID law.

Legal References:

1Our California criminal defense attorneys have local Los Angeles law offices in Beverly Hills, Burbank, Glendale, Lancaster, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Pasadena, Pomona, Torrance, Van Nuys, West Covina, and Whittier.  We have additional law offices conveniently located throughout the state in Orange County, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, San Jose, Oakland, the San Francisco Bay area, and several nearby cities.

2California Penal Code 470b PC California's law against displaying or possessing a forged or counterfeit driver's license and/or identification card.

3California Penal Code 470: Forgery; Signatures or Seals; Corruption of Records.  ("(a) Every person who, with the intent to defraud, knowing that he or she has no authority to do so, signs the name of another person or of a fictitious person to any of the items listed in subdivision (d) is guilty of forgery. (b) Every person who, with the intent to defraud, counterfeits or forges the seal or handwriting of another is guilty of forgery.  (c) Every person who, with the intent to defraud, alters, corrupts, or falsifies any record of any will, codicil, conveyance, or other instrument, the record of which is by law evidence, or any record of any judgment of a court or the return of any officer to any process of any court, is guilty of forgery. (d) Every person who, with the intent to defraud, falsely makes, alters, forges, or counterfeits, utters, publishes, passes or attempts or offers to pass, as true and genuine, any of the following items, knowing the same to be false, altered, forged, or counterfeited, is guilty of forgery: any check, bond, bank bill, or note, cashier's check, traveler's check, money order, post note, draft, any controller's warrant for the payment of money at the treasury, county order or warrant, or request for the payment of money, receipt for money or goods, bill of exchange, promissory note, order, or any assignment of any bond, writing obligatory, or other contract for money or other property, contract, due bill for payment of money or property, receipt for money or property, passage ticket, lottery ticket or share purporting to be issued under the California State Lottery Act of 1984, trading stamp, power of attorney, certificate of ownership or other document evidencing ownership of a vehicle or undocumented vessel, or any certificate of any share, right, or interest in the stock of any corporation or association, or the delivery of goods or chattels of any kind, or for the delivery of any instrument of writing, or acquittance, release or discharge of any debt, account, suit, action, demand, or any other thing, real or personal, or any transfer or assurance of money, certificate of shares of stock, goods, chattels, or other property whatever, or any letter of attorney, or other power to receive money, or to receive or transfer certificates of shares of stock or annuities, or to let, lease, dispose of, alien, or convey any goods, chattels, lands, or tenements, or other estate, real or personal, or falsifies the acknowledgment of any notary public, or any notary public who issues an acknowledgment knowing it to be false; or any matter described in subdivision (b). (e) Upon a trial for forging any bill or note purporting to be the bill or note of an incorporated company or bank, or for passing, or attempting to pass, or having in possession with intent to pass, any forged bill or note, it is not necessary to prove the incorporation of the bank or company by the charter or act of incorporation, but it may be proved by general reputation; and persons of skill are competent witnesses to prove that the bill or note is forged or counterfeited.")

4The examples provided, which include references to California arrest warrants, identity theft, workers' compensation fraud, and unemployment insurance fraud are simply representative of the types of violations that occur in connection with Penal Code 470b.  They are by no means an exhaustive list of Penal Code 470b violations.

5Judicial Council of California Criminal Jury Instruction CALCRIM 19.21 - California's law against displaying or forging a forged or counterfeit driver's license or identification card.  ("To prove that the defendant is guilty of this crime, the People must prove that: 1 The defendant (possessed[,]/[or] displayed[,]/[or] caused [or permitted] to be displayed) a (driver's license/[or] government-issued identification card); 2 The (driver's license/[or] government-issued identification card) was (altered[,]/[or] falsified[,]/[or] forged[,]/[or] duplicated[,]/[or] reproduced[,]/[or] counterfeited); 3 The defendant knew that the (driver's license/[or] government-issued identification card) had been (altered[,]/[or] falsified[,]/[or] forged[,]/[or] duplicated[,]/[or] reproduced[,]/[or] counterfeited); AND 4 When the defendant (possessed[,]/[or] displayed[,]/[or] caused [or permitted] to be displayed) the (driver's license/[or] government-issued identification card), (he/she) intended that the document be used to commit forgery.")

6Newport Beach criminal defense attorney John Murray represents clients throughout Orange County, including Newport Beach, Fullerton, Laguna Beach, Irvine, Santa Ana, Anaheim and Westminster.

7See CALCRIM 19.21 - California's law against displaying or forging a forged or counterfeit driver's license or identification card, endnote 5, above.  ("Someone intends to commit forgery if he or she intends to use a forged, counterfeit, altered, falsified, duplicated, or reproduced document to deceive another person in order to cause a loss of, or damage to, a legal, financial, or property right.")

8See same.  ("[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.]")

9See same.  ("[Two or more people may possess something at the same time.] [A person does not have to actually hold or touch something to possess it. It is enough if the person has (control over it/[or] the right to control it), either personally or through another person.]")

10Penal Code PC California's law against displaying or possessing a forged or counterfeit driver's license and/or identification card.  ("Every person who displays or causes or permits to be displayed or has in his possession any driver's license or identification card of the type enumerated in Section 470a with the intent that such driver's license or identification card be used to facilitate the commission of any forgery, is punishable by imprisonment in the state prison, or by imprisonment in the county jail for not more than one year.")

See also California Penal Code 18 PC -- Punishment for felony not otherwise prescribed; alternate sentence to county jail.  ("Except in cases where a different punishment is prescribed by any law of this state, every offense declared to be a felony, or to be punishable by imprisonment in a state prison, is punishable by imprisonment in any of the state prisons for 16 months, or two or three years; provided, however, every offense which is prescribed by any law of the state to be a felony punishable by imprisonment in any of the state prisons or by a fine, but without an alternate sentence to the county jail, may be punishable by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding one year or by a fine, or by both.")

See also California Penal Code 672 PC -- Offenses for which no fine prescribed; fine authorized in addition to imprisonment.  ("Upon a conviction for any crime punishable by imprisonment in any jail or prison, in relation to which no fine is herein prescribed, the court may impose a fine on the offender not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000) in cases of misdemeanors or ten thousand dollars ($10,000) in cases of felonies, in addition to the imprisonment prescribed.")

11California Penal Code 470a PC -- Forgery or counterfeiting of driver's license or identification card; intent; punishment.  ("Every person who alters, falsifies, forges, duplicates or in any manner reproduces or counterfeits any driver's license or identification card issued by a governmental agency with the intent that such driver's license or identification card be used to facilitate the commission of any forgery, is punishable by imprisonment in the state prison, or by imprisonment in the county jail for not more than one year.")

See also California Penal Codes 18 and 672, endnote 10, above.

12California Vehicle Code 13004 VC -- Unlawful acts.  ("It is unlawful for any person: (a) To display or cause or permit to be displayed or have in his possession any canceled, fictitious, fraudulently altered, or fraudulently obtained identification card. (b) To lend his identification card to any other person or knowingly permit the use thereof by another. (c) To display or represent any identification card not issued to him as being his card. (d) To permit any unlawful use of an identification card issued to him. (e) To do any act forbidden or fail to perform any act required by this article. (f) 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. (g) To alter any identification card in any manner not authorized by this code.")

See also California Vehicle Code 40000.11 VC -- Misdemeanors.  ("A violation of any of the following provisions is a misdemeanor, and not an infraction: (a) Division 5 (commencing with Section 11100), relating to occupational licensing and business regulations. (b) Section 12500, subdivision (a), relating to unlicensed drivers. (c) Section 12515, subdivision (b), relating to persons under 21 years of age driving, and the employment of those persons to drive, vehicles engaged in interstate commerce or transporting hazardous substances or wastes. (d) Section 12517, relating to a special driver's certificate to operate a schoolbus or school pupil activity bus. (e) Section 12517.45, relating to a special driver's certificate and vehicle inspection for the transportation of pupils to or from school-related activities by a passenger charter-party carrier as defined in subdivision (k) of Section 545. (f) Section 12519, subdivision (a), relating to a special driver's certificate to operate a farm labor vehicle. (g) Section 12520, relating to a special driver's certificate to operate a tow truck. (h) Section 12804, subdivision (d), relating to medical certificates. (i) Section 12951, subdivision (b), relating to refusal to display license. (j) Section 13004, relating to unlawful use of an identification card [italics added]. (k) Section 13004.1, relating to identification documents. (l) Sections 14601, 14601.1, 14601.2, and 14601.5, relating to driving with a suspended or revoked driver's license. (m) Section 14604, relating to unlawful use of a vehicle. (n) Section 14610, relating to unlawful use of a driver's license. (o) Section 14610.1, relating to identification documents. (p) Section 15501, relating to use of false or fraudulent license by a minor.")

See also California Penal Code 19 PC -- Punishment for misdemeanor; punishment not otherwise prescribed.  ("Except in cases where a different punishment is prescribed by any law of this state, every offense declared to be a misdemeanor is punishable by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding six months, or by fine not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by both.")

13California Vehicle Code 13004.1 VC -- Manufacture or sale of similar identification document prohibited; penalties.  ("(a) No person shall manufacture or sell an identification document of a size and form substantially similar to the identification cards issued by the department. (b) A violation of this section is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of one thousand dollars ($1,000), no part of which shall be suspended, and the person shall be required to perform not less than 24 hours of community service during hours when the person is not employed and is not attending school.")

14California Penal Code 472 PC -- Forging, counterfeiting, or possessing a fraudulent public sea.  ("Every person who, with intent to defraud another, forges, or counterfeits the seal of this State, the seal of any public officer authorized by law, the seal of any Court of record, or the seal of any corporation, or any other public seal authorized or recognized by the laws of this State, or of any other State, Government, or country, or who falsely makes, forges, or counterfeits any impression purporting to be an impression of any such seal, or who has in his possession any such counterfeited seal or impression thereof, knowing it to be counterfeited, and willfully conceals the same, is guilty of forgery.")

See also California Penal Code 473 PC -- Forgery; punishment. ("Forgery is punishable by imprisonment in the state prison, or by imprisonment in the county jail for not more than one year.")

See also California Penal Codes 18 and 672, endnote 10, above.

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