California Penal Code Section 470A PC: Forgery Of A Driver's License
1. Definition and Elements of the Crime
A fake driver's license can be a valuable commodity for a variety of people, ranging from minors wanting to buy alcohol and get into clubs to undocumented immigrants who want to secure employment. In California, forging or counterfeiting a driver's license is a crime under California Penal Code Section 470A PC that can lead to a felony conviction on one’s criminal record.
To prove that a defendant committed the crime of forging or counterfeiting a driver's license, a prosecutor must be able to prove following elements:
- The defendant altered, falsified, forged, duplicated, reproduced or counterfeited a driver's license or government-issued identification card.
- When the defendant did this, he or she intended that the driver's license or identification card be used to help commit forgery.
Someone intends to commit forgery if he or she intends to use a forged, counterfeit, altered, falsified, duplicated, or reproduced document to deceive another person in order to cause a loss, or cause damage to a legal, financial or property right. It is not required that anyone actually be defrauded or actually suffer a loss as a result of the defendant's conduct.
2. Related Offenses
Similar offenses include the following:
- Forgery - California Penal Code Section 470 PC
- Perjury - California Penal Code Section 118 PC
- Possessing or Displaying a Counterfeit Driver's License or Identification - California Penal Code Section 470B PC
- Forging, Counterfeiting or Possessing Fraudulent Public Seals - California Penal Code Section 472 PC
- Manufacturing or Selling Counterfeit Identification Cards - California Vehicle Code Section 13004.1 VC
- Unlawful Acts Involving Identification Cards - California Vehicle Code Section 13004 VC
A student at a local art school starts a lucrative business of making fake driver's licenses and identification cards for other underage students. The man takes a photo his clients, then uses a computer to design a duplicate of Florida's driver’s license using that picture. He then has the equipment to print his fake licenses on cards identical to the one used by the state of Florida. The student could be arrested and prosecuted for forgery of a driver's license or government identification card under California Penal Code Section 470A PC. The fact that the student was creating fake Florida identifications does not make him immune from prosecution in California, if that is where the production of the identification cards took place. Forging or counterfeiting any state or government's identification card or driver's license is enough to violate the statute.
In another example, a doctor's office requires that all new patients must provide a photocopy of their driver's license as part of creating a new patient file. The doctor’s administrative assistant makes the copies on a state-of-the-art, photorealistic copy machine. Neither the assistant nor the doctor would be criminally liable for committing forgery or counterfeiting of a driver's license, as they did not make the copies of the license for any fraudulent purpose, which is required under the statute. Needless to say, it is important to be careful when making copies of licenses, as it is an act that under the right circumstances may be considered to be criminal.
4. Defenses to Forgery of a Driver's License
As described above, the false driver's license or identification card must be produced in connection with a fraudulent intent. Thus if the alteration, counterfeiting or reproduction was done for some other legitimate reason, or even done as a joke, the client would not be criminally liable under the statute.
Forgery of a driver's license or government-issued identification card is a "wobbler" offense. This means that a prosecutor can pursue the case as either a felony or misdemeanor. Prosecutors tend to evaluate factors such as the criminal history of the defendant and the circumstances of the crime when deciding what level of charges would be appropriate to file. If charged and convicted of the misdemeanor, a defendant can be sentenced to up to a year in jail in addition to extensive court fines. If charged and convicted of the felony, a defendant can be sent to prison for up to three years.
6. Criminal Defense for Forgery of a Driver's License
If you or someone you know are being investigated for forgery of a driver's license, or have been charged criminally with this offense, it is critical that you consult with a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney as soon as possible. As a former Deputy District Attorney with over 14 years of prosecutorial experience, Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Michael Kraut brings a unique perspective in defending cases such as this. Mr. Kraut is well-known throughout the court system as an aggressive litigator who works hard on his clients' behalf.
For more information about forgery of a driver's license charges, and to schedule your free consultation, contact Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Michael Kraut at the Kraut Criminal & DUI Lawyers located at 6255 Sunset Boulevard, Suite 1520, Los Angeles, CA 90028. Mr. Kraut can be reached 24/7 at 888-334-6344 or 323-464-6453.