Based on the overwhelming calls and inquiries I have been receiving regarding my recent blog post about fake driver’s licenses in New York and the complex legal issues they present, I am doing this follow up article.
Who among us hasn’t had a fake ID or drank under age? It’s a rite of passage. But in today’s day and age there is much more enforcement, and much less forgiveness and no sense of humor about possession of a fake ID.
The gold standard for a fake ID is always a fake driver’s license. Now back in the day in New York your driver’s license was a paper card with no photograph. Back then all you had to do was take an exacto knife or razor blade, scrape off a number or numbers from the date of birth, and alter it using a number 2 pencil. Then, go to the DMV, report your license lost, and get a new one. The new one was used when you needed to correctly identify yourself and to present to the police should you get pulled over, and the fake ID was used to buy booze and get into clubs.
Oh, the good old days. Today however you need sophisticated equipment and advanced technology to get an authentic looking fake ID driver’s license. They are easy enough to get, and cheap. Just go to the dark web and, for $75.00 a fake ID with holograms and bar codes will be shipped to your door. And that is the first problem with fake ID’s.
What you don’t realize is that the vast majority of these fake ID companies are crime syndicates and scammers. The least amount of interest they have is in selling you a fake NY driver’s license for $75.00. What is really in it for them is the real personal information that you give them, including your photograph, in order for you to obtain your fake ID. Many of these fake ID’s are franked in places like Nigeria, China, and Eastern Europe. In obtaining your fake ID, these scammers obtain your real ID – name, date of birth, photographs, address, etc. So if you got a fake ID online, it is probable that your identity was stolen and you must be more vigilant with your credit cards, bank accounts, and investment accounts for the rest of your life.
While the fake ID is good at fooling bouncers, store clerks, and scanners, it is not good at fooling the people it must fool – the police, the state liquor authority, and the NYS DMV. So here is how you get caught. The police or agents of the DMV post up at a bar or event by a college where alcohol is being served. They work with the establishment and act as the bouncer or person checking ID’s. They are undercover, so you have no idea whom they are. In order to get your booze, you hand it to them. BUSTED.
At a minimum, you are going to be charged with NY Vehicle & Traffic Law (VTL) § 509(6), possession of a forged or fictitious license. Not only does this trigger a court case, it also generates an administrative case with the NYS DMV. The administrative case has to do with whether or not you possessed a fake New York State license, or a fake license from any other state. If you lose the administrative hearing, your NYS license or driving privileges get suspended for one year.
As a condition precedent to having any chance of winning the DMV’s administrative hearing, you must beat the court case. This is because the burden of proof in a court is beyond a reasonable doubt, and the burden of proof in the DMV’s administrative tribunal is much lower. Therefore, under the legal theory of collateral estoppel, you are essentially prevented from denying possession of a fake driver’s license in the administrative hearing because you already admitted to it by pleading guilty in the criminal court, or took your case to trial, lost, and were found guilty. In other words, a finding of guilt in the court case is all the evidence the DMV needs to find you guilty in the administrative hearing.
If you plead guilty and want to prevent the license suspension, our office can represent you in doing a coram nobis proceeding to vacate your previously entered plea of guilty.
Can we beat the NY VTL § 509(6) in court. Yes, we can. We do so by executing on a plea bargain to plead you guilty to something else, such as a parking ticket. While you will still pay a fine, we plea bargain the case to something that does not trigger a license suspension or otherwise negatively impact your driving record. See more about what a plea bargain is by clicking here.
Once we win in court, your next question is can we also beat the DMV administrative hearing. Our firm is one of the few in New York State that routinely represents clients before the NYS DMV in specialized hearings, applications, and appeals. We routinely win hearings and trials before the NYS DMV, and have the experience and know how to competently represent you in a DMV administrative hearing. While no law firm can guarantee a win in every case, what we can guarantee you is that if you do nothing you are found guilty and lose your license 100% of the time.
In addition to all of the above, there is more and the pain train often continues. A driver’s license is a government instrument. See, New York Penal Law § 170.10(3). It is illegal to possess a fake government instrument with the intention of deceiving another person. See, New York Penal Law § 170.25. To do so is criminal possession of a forged instrument in the 2nd degree, which is a Class D felony. A felony is a very serious matter. If convicted you can be sentenced to up to 7 years in state prison. But that is just the start. A felony conviction is a life sentence. Felons lose their civil rights. A felon cannot obtain a state professional license for employment (nurses, CPA’s, etc.), cannot vote, run for public office, be employed by local, state, or federal government, and cannot own firearms. This is just to name a few. A felony conviction is truly a scarlet letter that will impede you for the rest of your life.
Many police officers charge NY Penal L. § 170.25 instead of, or in addition to NY VTL § 509(6) to get an easy felony arrest. You see, cops are like anyone else. When in uniform they are merely at work, and have the same pressures and issues as anyone at work. They have supervisors and an entire chain of command and, like anyone in a career cops want to advance, or at least get along, get good assignments, get overtime, and not put themselves on anyone’s radar. One thing cops are judged on is their arrests. Not just the volume of arrests, but the quality of their arrests. The highest quality arrest a cop can make is a felony arrest based on solid evidence. The unfairness and collateral damage is not their concern. This is the reality of what goes on.
Now, those arrested under NY PL § 170.25, will they actually be convicted of it? If no one was hurt and the defendant does not have a criminal record, the odds are no, they will not be. Nonetheless, this is still a huge problem. They were arrested on a felony and upon dismissal of the case the record will be sealed. However, the arrest is public information and was already made public. The mug shot and facts of the arrest is public information and likely disseminated to news organizations and data collection agencies within 48 hours of the arrest. In other words, record of the arrest is already out in the ether of cyberspace, always available for anyone who does a background check or wants to look.
Another problem this felony arrest creates is that you must defend a felony matter in court. There are a lot of technicalities with felony criminal defense, so you need to hire a lawyer who has the requisite training, experience, and reputation to handle such a case. The stakes are high and the consequences are dire. You can expect to spend at least $7,500.00 on legal services for the right lawyer to represent you and get the case dismissed.
Have you or someone you know been arrested for having a fake driver’s license in New York State under either NY VTL § 509(6) or NY Penal Law § 170.25? If so I am sure that you have questions or concerns. We can answer those questions, so feel free to give us a call anytime 24 / 7. Talking to people about their legal problems and needs is something we do every day, and we’d love to hear from you!