Fake IDs and Criminal Consequences

Fake IDs were ever-present on campus when I was an undergraduate. There were several varieties: a “novelty” driver’s license obtained from a private vendor, a doctored version of the underage person’s real driver’s license, a duplicate driver’s license from an older relative, friend or acquaintance who resembled the underage person, or, the gold standard: a DMV-issued driver’s license with the underage person’s picture but an older person’s name, address, and birthdate. These days, on-line vendors hawk fake IDs, and facial recognition software makes it nearly impossible to obtain the gold standard fake ID from DMV. Otherwise, not all that much has changed in the collegiate fake-id market.

Often an underage person’s use of fraudulent identification leads to charges that are purely alcohol-related, such as the unlawful purchase or consumption of alcohol by an underage person. But other criminal charges may stem directly from the use of the fake ID.

G.S. 18B-302(e) makes it a Class 1 misdemeanor to use fraudulent identification to do any of the following:

(1) enter or attempt to enter a place where alcoholic beverages are sold or consumed,

(2) obtain or attempt to obtain alcoholic beverages, or

(3) to obtain or attempt to obtain permission to purchase alcoholic beverages.

A conviction under G.S. 18B-302(e) triggers a mandatory one-year revocation of the person’s driver’s license.

In addition, G.S. 20-30(3) makes it a Class 2 misdemeanor to display or represent as one’s own a driver’s license not issued to the person displaying it. DMV may suspend a person’s driver’s license for up to one year for conviction of this offense. G.S. 20-16(a)(6); 20-19(c).

A person who provides fraudulent identification for another person’s use also could face criminal charges. A person who allows someone else to use a driver’s license or other identification that was issued or given to that person violates G.S. 18B-302(f) if the person who is allowed to use the license or identification violates or attempts to violate the law barring the purchase, possession or consumption of alcohol by someone under 21 years of age. A violation of G.S. 18B-302(f) is a Class 1 misdemeanor that also triggers a mandatory revocation of the offender’s driver’s license for one year.

And G.S. 20-30(2) makes it a Class 2 misdemeanor to counterfeit, sell, lend to, or knowingly permit the use of a driver’s license by a person not entitled to its use. DMV may suspend a person’s license for up to one year for conviction of this offense.

Vendors face more serious consequences.The sale of a simulated driver’s license is a Class I felony.  G.S. 20-30(7).  One advocate for stricter driver’s license requirements opined earlier this year that the proliferation of counterfeit driver’s licenses from China created concerns that eclipsed underage drinking, arguing that their issuance threatened the United States’ security infrastructure.

Not identity theft. An underage person’s use of another person’s driver’s license to gain admission to a bar or club or to procure alcohol does not appear to satisfy the elements for identity theft under G.S. 14-113.20. To commit identity theft, a person must obtain, possess, or use another person’s identifying information to make financial transactions, to avoid legal consequences, or to “obtain anything of value, benefit or advantage.” While one could argue that an underage person using another’s identification obtains the “benefit” of access to certain establishments and to alcoholic beverages, such access differs markedly from the sort of financial, material, or legal benefit generally sought in connection with the improper use of another’s identity. Thus, it seems unlikely to have been the sort of benefit or advantage envisioned by the legislature when it added this language to the identity theft statute in 2002.