Possession or Use of a Fake ID in Washington – Lawyer’s Perspective

The Spokane area has seen an increase in criminal charges related to fake ID possession.  Particularly in the area of Gonzaga University, local officials have noted an uptick in the number of cases.  Parents are often disturbed to hear that a son or daughter has been charged with possession of a fake ID.  The alcohol consumption alone may not be a surprise, but charges for fake identification can create concerns about the teen’s future.  Fake ID lawyerCharges for a fake ID can vary, but they always involve a mandatory court appearance, and a risk of jail time and a criminal record. The typical charge for possession of a fake ID is RCW 66.20.200 which makes it a misdemeanor to procure or possess a card of identification not issued to him or her.  As with any misdemeanor, the offense is punishable by up to 90 days in jail and $1000 fine. Supplying another with a fake ID is a gross misdemeanor under RCW 66.44.328 and is punishable with a sentence up to 1 year in jail and a $5,000 fine.  Alterations to an existing identification card have also been known to result in felony forgery charges in certain circumstances.

A charge for possession of a fake ID or driver’s license usually arises when an underage person is caught in a bar or tavern by the police.  Charges can also arise when a bartender, doorman, or bouncer seizes a fake ID from a young person attempting to get served.  Bars and clubs, particularly in more metropolitan areas such as Spokane, use ID scanners that can electronically check the validity of an ID, and often times photograph or document the use of the fake driver’s license.  There is no consistent way that bar owners handle this issue.  Some taverns are quick to contact law enforcement, whereas other bars will simply eject underage would-be patrons.   Some establishments will scrutinize an ID or driver’s license carefully to detect forgeries, where other clubs will seemingly accept any “identification.”

When the police discover a fake ID, it is often due to a law enforcement check on a bar or night club.  Sometimes, in areas such as Spokane or Pullman, law enforcement will stage a dramatic “raid” on a night club.  However, more often police will visit a tavern to respond to someone who has passed out at the bar.  In these “raids,” the police are also after the tavern owners who they feel are profiting off the illegal sales to minors.   Usually it is something else that gets the officer’s attention, such as threats made, or rowdy behavior.

A conviction for having a fake ID can be troublesome for the future of a young adult.  Such a conviction can cause problems with security clearances, or getting a job at a bank.  Often times financial institutions or other related corporations will reject job applicants with such convictions.  All employers look at is a criminal record on paper, and not the underlying circumstance.  Employers don’t necessarily distinguish between a fake ID used by a teen to keep up with older friends, and a fake ID that is used to commit fraud, criminal impersonation, ID theft, or used to threaten national security.

Using Someone Else’s Driver’s License

A common way in which a minor produces a “fake” ID, is when he or she produces the license of another person who the minor feels looks similar.  This is prosecuted under the same statutes as discussed above.  Usually the “similarity of appearance” is not assessed by anyone objective and the bartender recognizes the ruse.  However, not all bartenders or doorman are very careful.  Being caught with the license of another often will cause the police to wonder if the license holder gave the license in question to the minor.  When questioned by police, the minor faces the uncomfortable choice between incriminating an older friend, and confessing to the “theft” of the license of another.  When faced with that question, occasionally a savvy teen that will decide that it might be time to talk to the family lawyer rather than dig themselves further into a hole.

Fake ID over the Internet

In eastern Washington it is becoming increasingly common for college students to obtain fake IDs over the internet.  Fake identifications are often advertised on sites that are popular with college kids.   Facebook doesn’t accept advertisements for fake IDs but other social networking sites do accept such advertisements.  These fake IDs are often advertised as “novelty items” thus leading young people to think that having a fake ID is not a serious matter.  Websites in the US that offer fake IDs are usually shut down rather quickly by the FTC (Federal Trade Commission).   Usually the sites that currently offer the most sophisticated fake IDs are operating overseas in such countries as China.  These fake IDs often come with working bar codes, holograms, and hidden markings visible only by ultraviolet light.  Usually fake IDs consist of imitation driver’s license from other states.  It is often difficult for bartenders and bouncers to spot a fake ID from another jurisdiction.  In college towns it is not unusual for students to keep their identification from their home state through all four years of college.

For more information on the court system process for a fake ID, visit out website.


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Steve Graham is a criminal defense lawyer, and he splits his time between Spokane and Seattle, Washington. Visit his website by clicking: www.grahamdefense.com
Law Office of Steve Graham
1312 North Monroe Street, #140
Spokane, WA 99201
(509) 252-9167
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