It is no secret that for generations, young people have possessed fake identifications to purchase alcohol and make it possible to drink at bars before turning 21. Every year, young people in the Houston area are charged with the possession or use of fake identification, typically after getting caught trying to enter a bar or nightclub with a shoddy fake ID. Although many young people might not see this as a serious violation, possessing a fake I.D. can lead to serious and long-lasting consequences.
In Texas, there is no offense known as “possession of a fake identification.” Instead, prosecutors can charge a person accused of possessing, using, creating, altering, or loaning a fake I.D. in a number of ways depending on the facts of the case, and how aggressively they wish to go after the offender. Depending on how the offense is charged, possession of a fake I.D. can range from a Class “C” misdemeanor to a third-degree felony. If you are charged with possession of a fake ID, it is critical that you speak with an experienced criminal defense lawyer right away.
Texas Penal Code §521.451 – General Driver’s License Violations
Under Texas Penal Code 521.451, you can be charged with a “general driver’s license violation” for displaying (i.e., presenting) or possessing a fictitious or altered license, knowingly permitting another to use one’s license, displaying the license of another as one’s own, or providing false documents, information and identification to attempt to obtain a driver’s license. This statute covers the most conceivable ways that people can break the law by obtaining, loaning, or using fake IDs. An offense under this section is a Class “A” misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a $4000 fine.
Texas Penal Code §521.453 – Possessing a Fictitious License
Texas Penal Code 521.453 overlaps somewhat with 521.451, but it specifically addresses identification cards that are “deceptively similar” to real driver’s licenses (depending on one’s interpretation of “fictitious license” may not be covered in 521.451). This section makes it illegal to possess a fictitious license unless it is clearly stamped with the disclaimer “NOT A GOVERNMENT DOCUMENT.” Additionally, this section only applies to individuals under the age of 21. An offense under this section is a Class “C” misdemeanor punishable by up to a $500 fine as well as community service of up to 12 hours.
Texas Penal Code §37.10 – Tampering with a Government Record
Texas Penal Code 37.10 also addresses most ways that a fake I.D. could be created, altered, possessed, or used. Under this statute, the offense of Tampering with a Government Record is committed by altering a license (known as a “governmental record” under the statute), using a license with knowledge of its falsity, selling or offering to sell a license with the intent that it be used unlawfully, or presenting a license with knowledge of its falsity. Depending on how Tampering with a Government Record relating to a fake I.D.is charged, it is either a Class “A” misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and a $4000 fine, or a third-degree felony, punishable by 2-10 years in jail and a $10,000 fine.
Texas Penal Code §32.21 – Forgery
Under Texas Penal Code 32.21 you could be charged with forgery for possessing a fake identification if you are alleged to have altered a driver’s license with the intent to defraud. The forgery statute potentially covers a wide range of illegal acts and it is debatable whether it was ever intended to cover fake identifications, although it has been used for fake I.D. cases in the past. If you are charged with forgery in connection with a fake identification, you are facing a third-degree felony with a potential punishment range of 2-10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
How to keep a possession of fake identification charge off your record
Regardless of how your case is charged, it is very important to keep an accusation relating to a fake I.D. off your record. Even though most charges relating to fake I.D.s in the Houston area are charged as misdemeanors, they are crimes that involve dishonesty and can leave a lasting impact on a person’s job prospects. In a case involving a fake identification, the first step will always be for your criminal defense attorney to gather all the evidence to try and obtain a dismissal based on weak evidence or a legal problem with the case, such as an illegal confession. Even if it appears that the case against you can be proved, an experienced criminal defense lawyer may be able to obtain a dismissal if you have limited criminal history and are a young person, as is very likely in a case involving a fake ID. Many prosecutors understand that the use of fake IDs is widespread among young people, and many are willing to give a young person charged with one of these offenses a second chance to keep a clean record.
An experienced criminal defense attorney can guide you through the process and help you make informed decisions regarding your case to ensure that any accusation involving the possession of a fake I.D. is eventually removed from your record, if possible. If your case is dismissed, or if you are acquitted at trial, you may eventually be eligible to have an expunction to destroy all records of the offense. An expunction is a legal procedure that results in the literal destruction of all records relating to an arrest and is generally considered to be the best result in a case involving the possession of a fake ID.
If you are charged with possession, use, alteration, or creation of a fake I.D. anywhere in the Greater Houston area, attorney Jose Ceja is an excellent choice. Call today to schedule a free consultation.