In Texas, it's quite common for kids under 21 to try to use fake identification to enter clubs or buy alcohol or tobacco. But there are other situations where people attempt to use fake IDs. Whether it's an attempt to use someone else's club membership, changing the birth date on an ID, or using a friend's ID to access their health insurance, using, purchasing, or tampering with a state ID is illegal. The charges and penalties depend on the facts and circumstances surrounding the crime.
If you or a loved one are facing a charge for possessing a fake ID in Texas, it's important to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney. While some charges may be a Class C misdemeanor, the facts and circumstances of your case could result in multiple charges, more serious charges, or aggravated charges. A fake ID charge isn't something you should simply plead guilty to without consulting with an attorney about the long-term consequences.
Possession of a Fake Driver's License or ID
Under Texas Penal Code § 521.452, a person may not:
- Display or have in their possession an ID that they know is fake or altered,
- Lend their driver's license or certificate to someone else or knowingly allow someone else to use it,
- Display or present a driver's license or certificate that isn't their own,
- Possess more than one valid driver's license or certificate,
- Provide a false name, address, or counterfeit document in an original, replacement, or renewal application for a driver's license or certificate,
- Knowingly make a false statement, conceal a material fact, or otherwise commit fraud in an original, replacement, or renewal application for a driver's license or certificate.
Breaking this law is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by 30 days to one year in jail and up to a $4,000 fine. If a minor violates this law attempting to buy alcohol, police may also prosecute them under the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code § 106.07.
Actions that might land you with a charge for possessing a fake ID could include:
- Loaning your ID to a friend,
- Borrowing a friend's ID and using it to attempt to purchase alcohol,
- Having a fake ID in your possession,
- Trying to use an ID you know is fake, and
- Using a fake document or lying on your application for a driver's license.
Misrepresentation of Age by a Minor
If someone under 21 pretends that they are 21 or presents a fake document stating that they are 21 to a person selling or serving alcohol, police can charge them with “misrepresentation of age by a minor.” This charge is probably the most common fake ID charge issued in Texas. The fake ID violation is illegal under section 106.07 of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code and Texas Penal Code section 521.452, as discussed above. Misrepresentation of age by a minor is a Class C misdemeanor punishable by up to a $500 fine.
A minor misrepresenting their age attempting to buy or obtain alcohol can also face charges for “punishment for alcohol-related offense by a minor” under section 106.071 of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code. This offense is a Class C misdemeanor, punishable by a fine between $250 and $2,000, up to 180 days in jail, 12 to 40 hours of community service, and a driver's license suspension of 30 to 180 days. The court may also place minors under 18 on deferred adjudication.
Possession of a Fake License or Certificate
Even if you don't attempt to use it, even just possessing a fake driver's license or certificate is illegal in Texas. Under Texas Penal Code § 521.453, possessing a document that is “deceptively similar” to an official driver's license or personal ID is illegal. However, the law allows an exception for documents that state “NOT A GOVERNMENT DOCUMENT” printed on it diagonally on both sides in solid red capital letters at least ¼ of an inch in height. This law doesn't apply to federal, state, and political subdivisions authorized to produce or sell personal IDs or to employers who issue employee identification.
A document is “deceptively similar” to an official license or certificate if “a reasonable person would assume that it was issued by the department, another agency of this state, another state, or the United States.” A police officer can confiscate any fake ID that is “deceptively similar” to an official document that doesn't have “not a government document” printed on it according to the statutory requirements.
Possessing a Fake ID is a Class C misdemeanor punishable by up to a $500 fine as well as community service of 8 to 12 hours. Minors under 17 convicted of possessing a fake ID may be supervised by the juvenile court while completing community service.
Tampering with a Government Record
Under Texas Penal Code § 37.10, it is illegal to alter an official government record falsely. This violation includes:
- Knowingly making a false entry in, or false alteration of, a government record,
- Making, presenting, or using any knowingly false document as a genuine government record,
- Intentionally destroying, concealing, removing, or impairing the legibility, availability, or truthfulness of a government record,
- Possessing, selling, or offering to sell a government record or a blank government form to be used illegally,
- Making, possessing, or using a knowingly fake government form, or
- Possessing, selling, or offering to sell a government record or blank government form knowing someone obtained it illegally.
Under Texas law, the severity of the charge for tampering with a government record depends on your intent and the circumstances surrounding the violation.
- Generally, tampering with a government record is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $4,000 and 30 days to one year in jail.
- If the individual intends to defraud or harm another, the offense becomes a state jail felony, punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 and 180 days to two years in jail.
- If the governmental record was a school record used for enrollment, the violation is a third-degree felony, punishable with up to a $10,000 fine and up to two years in prison.
- If the government record was a medical report or exam used as evidence in a criminal action, the violation is a third-degree felony.
- If the record was a certification, maintenance, or inspection report for an instrument used to test physical evidence in a criminal action, the offense is a third-degree felony.
- If the government record is a search warrant issued by a magistrate, the offense is a third-degree felony.
In many record tampering situations, if the person intended to defraud or harm someone, it is a second-degree felony.
If you attempt to change or alter an official government document, you could face a charge for “tampering with a government record.” For example, if you try to change your birthday on your Texas driver's license, you could face a third-degree felony.
Using Stolen Information to Commit Identity Fraud
Identity fraud is a serious crime in the US and Texas. If you use stolen information to commit identity fraud, you could face felony charges, a $10,000 fine, and several years in prison. You don't even have to use the information to face charges. Even possessing the information can lead to a Class A misdemeanor, up to a $4,000 fine, and 30 days up to a year in jail.
Under Texas Penal Code § 32.51, if you use, possess, or transfer the identifying information of someone else without their consent, you could face a charge of “fraudulent use or possession of identifying information.” This identifying information could include transferring someone's official government documents like a driver's license, birth certificate, or social security card without their consent. Violations range from Class B misdemeanors up to second and first-degree felonies, depending on the crime. Penalties could include fines of $2,000 to $20,000 and jail time of a few days, up to a year or more for felony convictions.
Hire an Expert in Texas Criminal Defense
If you or someone you love faces charges for possessing a Fake ID, you need skilled legal guidance. While possessing a fake ID can sometimes be a misdemeanor charge, the facts and circumstances could lead to a felony charge or multiple misdemeanor charges. You need a skilled criminal defense attorney to guide you through the criminal justice system and ensure the best possible outcome. It's important to remember that you are innocent until proven guilty, and an experienced Texas criminal defense lawyer can help. The consequences of a criminal conviction can be expensive and long-lasting.
Attorney Doug Murphy is skilled in resolving complex criminal cases. He is one of only two Texas attorneys Board Certified in both Criminal Defense Law and DWI Defense. Recently, US News and World Report named Doug Murphy a Best Lawyer in America for Houston for 2021. He has the experience in litigation, defense, and negotiation to help resolve your case. Call the Doug Murphy Law Firm, PC today at 713-229-8333 or contact Doug Murphy online.