Unlawful Use of ID Cards - California Vehicle Code 13004 VC

Id-cards

California Vehicle Code 13004 VC is one of California's main law against “fake IDs.” The other is Penal Code 470B – having a fake drivers license or California Identification card.

To help you better understand California Vehicle Code 13004 VC, our criminal defense attorneys discuss the following, below:

  1. Acts prohibited by California Vehicle Code 13004 VC

  2. Penalties for violating California Vehicle Code 13004 VC

  3. Defenses to unlawful use of an ID card

  4. Related California offenses

    1. Forgery, California Penal Code 470a and 470b PC

    2. Manufacturing or selling a fake ID card, Vehicle Code 13004.1

    3. Forging a fraudulent public seal, California Penal Code 472 PC

    4. Theft by false pretenses, Penal Code 484 and 532 PC

      1. Grand theft by false pretenses
      2. Petty theft by false pretenses
  5. Giving false identification to a police officer, Penal Code 148.9 PC

  6. Giving false information to a police officer, Vehicle Code 31 VC

  7. Identity theft, Penal code 430.5 PC

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1. Acts prohibited by California Vehicle Code 13004 VC

California Vehicle Code 13004 applies to driver's licenses and other government-issued identification documents (collectively, “ID cards”).

Acts prohibited by Vehicle Code 13004 include:

  • Possessing a canceled, fake, fraudulently altered or fraudulently obtained ID card (including a California driver's license),
  • Lending someone else your ID card or knowingly letting another person use it;
  • Using someone else's ID card as your own;
  • Permitting the unlawful use of your ID card;
  • Creating a fake ID card, or
  • Unlawfully altering an ID card.1

Examples:

  • Bess lets her 16-year old sister use her driver's license to get into an 18-and-over night club.
  • Carl modifies a co-worker's identification card so that it contains Carl's photo. He then uses the card to cash the co-worker's paycheck.
  • Damien – an undocumented immigrant -- is stopped by the police. Damien doesn't have a California driver's license. When asked for his license, he produces the license of a friend who resembles him.
  • Erika, who is 18, uses her mother's ID card to buy alcohol.
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2. Penalties for violating California Vehicle Code 13004 VC

Violation of Vehicle Code 13004 VC is a California misdemeanor. It is punishable by:

  • up to six months in county jail, and
  • a fine of up to $1,000.2

Alternatively, the judge can place you on misdemeanor (“informal” or “summary”) California probation for one to three years.3

If you are placed on probation, you will serve little or no jail time.4 However, you will be subject to any reasonable conditions that the judge believes will aid in your rehabilitation. Conditions of probation may include:

  • community service and/or labor (such as Caltrans roadside work), and
  • refraining from breaking any other laws.

If you violate any of your probation conditions, the judge has the option to revoke your probation and send you to jail.5

3. Defenses to unlawful use of an ID card

There are a variety of legal defenses to California crimes in general that apply to charges of unlawfully using an identification card.

In addition, there are defenses specific to California Vehicle Code 13004 charges. A skilled California criminal defense lawyer can help determine which to present on your behalf.

Such legal defenses may include (but are not limited to):

  • You didn't know someone else had your ID card

    For you to be found guilty of letting someone else use your ID card, the prosecutor must prove that you knew someone else was doing it.6

    Example:
    George doesn't notice that his teenage son has “borrowed” George's driver license. George's son uses his father's license to buy cigarettes. Because George didn't actually lend his son his ID, and didn't know he was using it, he has not violated Penal Code 13004 PC.
  • Someone used the info on your California ID card without your permission

    If someone used the number on your ID card without your knowledge, you haven't unlawfully let someone use it.7

    Example:
    Helen visits a new doctor and gives the receptionist her driver's license so she can make a copy. Later, without Helen's knowledge, the receptionist uses the info on the license to obtain a credit card in Helen's name. Helen is not guilty of letting the receptionist use her ID card. Rather, it is the receptionist who is guilty of identity theft.
  • You didn't realize your ID card had expired

    It is unlawful under Vehicle Code 13004 to possess or use an expired ID card. However, a “mistake of fact” is a defense to a California crime as long as:

    1. the mistake is honest and reasonable, and
    2. your conduct – save for the mistake – was lawful.8
  • The police had no right to ask for your ID in the first place
    California's search and seizure laws prohibit the police from stopping you unless they have a reasonable suspicion that a crime has been, is being, or is about to be committed.9

    You have a defense to Vehicle Code 13004 if your unlawful activity is only discovered because of police misconduct, such as:

    1.  an illegal search of your car, or
    2.  racial profiling.

    Example:
    Juan is standing on a street corner where undocumented immigrants often gather to try to find work. During a “stop and frisk”, the police discover a California ID card, which has been altered to show Juan's face instead of the person to whom the card was issued.

    Juan's California criminal defense lawyer files a California Penal Code 1538.5 PC motion to suppress the evidence of the illegal ID card.10 When the police can establish no probable cause for the search, the prosecuting attorney drops the charges.

4. Related California offenses

4.1 Forgery, California Penal Code 470a and 470b PC

Id-card-tampering

California Penal Code 470a and 470b PC (forgery) make it a crime to possess or make a forged driver's license.

Specifically, Section 470a makes it unlawful to:

  • alter,
  • falsify,
  • forge,
  • duplicate, or
  • otherwise reproduce or counterfeit

a driver's license or government-issued ID card with the intent that it be used to facilitate the commission of a forgery.11

Penal Code 470b makes it a crime to:

  • display,
  • cause or permit to be displayed, or
  • possess

a driver's license or government-issued ID card with the intent it be used to facilitate the commission of any forgery.12

Penal Code 470a and 470b are California “wobbler” offenses. They can be prosecuted as felonies or misdemeanors in the prosecutor's discretion.

If charged as a misdemeanor, possession or creation of a forged ID card is punishable by:

  • imprisonment in a county jail for not more than one year, and/or
  • up to a $1,000 fine.13

As a felony, possessing or creating a forged ID card can be punished by:

  • 16 months, or two or three years in county jail, and/or
  • up to a $10,000 fine.14

As Hemet criminal defense attorney Michael Scafiddi explains:

"This is where having an experienced California criminal defense lawyer comes into play.  A savvy attorney knows the most effective arguments to persuade the prosecutor that you should be charged with Vehicle Code 13004 VC instead of this much more serious wobbler offense."

4.2 Manufacturing or selling a fake ID card, Vehicle Code 13004.1

California Vehicle Code 13004.1 prohibits making or selling an ID document that:

  • Is substantially similar in size and form to an identification document issued by the California DMV, or
  • Purports to confer the same privileges as a DMV-issued ID document.15

Violation of Vehicle Code 13004.1 is a misdemeanor. It is punishable by either:

  • A fine of between $250 and $1,000, and
  • 24 hours of community service, to be served when the person is not employed or is not attending school;

OR

  • a jail term of up to one year, and
  • a fine of up to one thousand dollars ($1,000).16

In deciding which set of penalties to impose, the court will take into account your commercial motivation for the offense, if any.17

Prosecution under this section does not preclude prosecution under other applicable laws – including any use of such ID for an unlawful purpose.18

Note also, that unlike Vehicle Code 13004, Section 13004.1 applies only to ID cards that look like cards issued by the California DMV.

California Vehicle Code 13004 says nothing about being limited to California state-issued ID cards.

4.3 Forging a fraudulent public seal, California Penal Code 472 PC

Penal Code 472, California's law against making or possessing a fraudulent public seal, makes it a crime to display or possess a fraudulent or altered I.D. card that bears a forged or counterfeit government seal. This includes the type of seal that appears on government issued identification cards.19

Penal Code 472 PC is a wobbler offense. As a felony, it subjects you to:

  • up to three years in the state prison, and
  • a maximum $10,000 fine.

As a misdemeanor, it subjects you to:

  • up to one year in a county jail, and
  • a maximum $1,000 fine.20

4.4 by false pretenses, Penal Code 484 and 532 PC

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You commit theft by false pretenses when:

  • You knowingly and intentionally deceive a property owner by representing something that isn't true;
  • You intend to persuade them to let you take possession of their property; AND
  • That person lets you take possession and ownership of their property because they are relying on your false pretense.21
4.4.1 Grand theft by false pretenses

Theft by false pretenses is grand theft if the property:

  • Is worth more than $950,
  • includes a firearm (“grand theft firearm”),
  • includes an automobile (“grand theft auto”),
  • includes certain livestock (such as a horse, sheep, or pig), or
  • is taken directly from a person, or something a person is wearing or carrying.22

The punishment for grand theft depends on the type of property taken.

If the property includes a firearm, grand theft is a felony. It is punishable by:

  • 16 months, or two or three years in California state prison, and
  • A fine of up to $10,000.23

If the theft involves livestock, it is a wobbler offense. It can be punished by:

  1. A fine of up to $5,000, and/or
  2. A county jail sentence of:
  • up to one year (if charged as a misdemeanor), or
  • 16 months, or two or three years (if charged as a felony).24

In all other cases, grand theft is a wobbler offense. If charged as a misdemeanor, it carries a penalty of:

  • A fine of up to $1,000, and/or
  • Up to one year in county jail.25

As a felony, it carries a possible sentence of:

  • 16 months, or two or three years in county jail, and
  • A fine of up to $10,000.26
4.4.2. Petty theft by false pretenses

In all other cases, theft by false pretenses is petty theft.27

Petty theft is a California misdemeanor. It is punishable by:

  • Informal (“ summary”) probation,
  • Up to six (6) months in county jail, and/or
  • A fine of up to one thousand dollars ($1,000).28

4.5 Giving false identification to a police officer, Penal Code 148.9 PC

Giving false identification to a police officer, California Penal Code 148.9 PC is a crime. It applies after a lawful detention or arrest if done to:

  • evade the process of the court, or
  • avoid proper identification by the officer.29

Violation of Penal Code 148.9 is a misdemeanor. It is punishable by:

  • Informal (“ summary”) probation,
  • Up to six (6) months in county jail, and/or
  • A fine of up to one thousand dollars ($1,000).30

4.6 Giving false information to a police officer, Vehicle Code 31 VC

Giving false information to a police officer, Vehicle Code 31, is a misdemeanor.

Examples of false information include:

Giving false information to a police officer is punishable by:

  • Informal (“ summary”) probation,
  • Up to six (6) months in county jail, and/or
  • A fine of up to one thousand dollars ($1,000).32

4.7 Identity theft, Penal code 430.5 PC

Identity theft, California Penal Code 430.5 PC, consists of taking of another person's personal identifying information for use in an unlawful or fraudulent manner.

Identity theft is a California “wobbler” crime. If charged as a misdemeanor, it carries a sentence of:

  • up to one year in a county jail, and
  • a maximum $1,000 fine.33

If punished as a felony, identity theft carries a potential sentence of:

  • 16 months, or two or three years in county jail, and
  • a fine of up to $10,000.34

Identity theft is also a crime under the federal Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act, 18 U.S. Code 1028.

Violation of 18 USC 1028 carries a federal prison sentence of up to 15 years – more if the ID is used to commit drug trafficking or a violent crime.35

Call us for help…

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For more information about California's criminal laws pertaining to identification, or to discuss your case confidentially with one of our criminal defense attorneys, please don't hesitate to contact us at Shouse Law Group. Our California criminal law offices are located in and around Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, San Jose, Oakland, the San Francisco Bay area, the Central Valley and other cities throughout California.

Additionally, our Las Vegas Nevada criminal defense attorneys represent clients accused of violating Nevada's fake ID laws. For more information, we invite you to contact our local attorneys at one of our Nevada law offices, located in Reno and Las Vegas.

Legal References:

1 California Vehicle Code 13004 VC. 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.

2 California Vehicle Code 40000.11 VC: A violation of any of the following provisions is a misdemeanor, and not an infraction: …(j) Section 13004, relating to unlawful use of identification card.

3 California Penal Code 1203(a) PC: As used in this code, "probation" means the suspension of the imposition or execution of a sentence and the order of conditional and revocable release in the community under the supervision of a probation officer. As used in this code, "conditional sentence" means the suspension of the imposition or execution of a sentence and the order of revocable release in the community subject to conditions established by the court without the supervision of a probation officer. It is the intent of the Legislature that both conditional sentence and probation are authorized whenever probation is authorized in any code as a sentencing option for infractions or misdemeanors.

4 Same.

5 California Penal Code 1203.2(c) PC: Upon any revocation and termination of probation the court may, if the sentence has been suspended, pronounce judgment for any time within the longest period for which the person might have been sentenced. However, if the judgment has been pronounced and the execution thereof has been suspended, the court may revoke the suspension and order that the judgment shall be in full force and effect. In either case, the person shall be delivered over to the proper officer to serve his or her sentence, less any credits herein provided for.

6 California Vehicle Code 13004(b), endnote 1.

7 California Vehicle Code 13004(d), endnote 1.

8 California Judicial Council Criminal Jury Instructions (CALCRIM) 3406. Mistake of Fact.

The defendant is not guilty of <insert crime[s]> if (he/she) did not have the intent or mental state required to commit the crime because (he/she) [reasonably] did not know a fact or [reasonably and] mistakenly believed a fact.

If the defendant's conduct would have been lawful under the facts as (he/she) [reasonably] believed them to be, (he/she) did not commit <insert crime[s]>.

If you find that the defendant believed that <insert alleged mistaken facts> [and if you find that belief was reasonable], (he/she) did not have the specific intent or mental state required for <insert crime[s]>.

If you have a reasonable doubt about whether the defendant had the specific intent or mental state required for <insert crime[s]>, you must find (him/her) not guilty of (that crime/those crimes).

9 Terry v. Ohio (1967) 392 US 1.

10 California Penal Code 1538.5(a)(1): A defendant may move for the return of property or to suppress as evidence any tangible or intangible thing obtained as a result of a search or seizure on either of the following grounds:
(A) The search or seizure without a warrant was unreasonable.

11 California Penal Code 470a.  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 a county jail for not more than one year, or by imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170.

12 California Penal Code 470b.  Every person who displays or causes or permits to be displayed or has in his or her possession any driver's license or identification card of the type enumerated in Section 470a with the intent that the driver's license or identification card be used to facilitate the commission of any forgery, is punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for not more than one year, or by imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170.

13 See endnotes 11 and 12.

See also California Penal Code 1170(h)(1): Except as provided in paragraph (3), a felony punishable pursuant to this subdivision where the term is not specified in the underlying offense shall be punishable by a term of imprisonment in a county jail for 16 months, or two or three years.

14 Same.

15 California Vehicle Code 13004.1(a)  VC: A person shall not manufacture or sell an identification document of a size and form substantially similar to, or that purports to confer the same privileges as, the identification cards issued by the department.

16 California Vehicle Code 13004.1(b) VC.

17 Same.

18 See California Vehicle Code 13004.1(c) VC.

19 California Penal Code 472 PC: 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.

20 Same.

21 Penal Code 484 and 532 PC.

22 California Penal Code 487 PC.

23 California Penal Code 489(a) PC.

24 California Penal Code 489(b) PC.

25 California Penal Code 489(c) PC.

See also California Penal Code 672 PC, endnote 23.

26 See same.

27 California Penal Code 488 PC.

28 California Penal Code 490 PC

29 California Penal Code 148.9 PC.

30 Same.

31 California Vehicle Code 31 VC.

32 Same.

33 California Penal code 430.5 PC.

34 Same.

35 See 18 U.S. Code 1028.

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