Manufacturing Fake ID's
Although likely the hobby of many a High School and College student, manufacturing false government documents (such as driver's licenses) is a serious crime, and depending on the intent of the manufacturer, can come with stiff penalties.
What are the Penalties for Manufacturing ID's?
The penalties with usually be at the discretion of the the prosecutor, so they might be much more severe for someone who has an ID mill in his home and is cranking out hundreds a day, than for someone who printed one off the Internet for personal use.
However, because the laws vary depending on what the ID's intended use is, the penalty range can be quite wide. For instance, manufacturing any ID for the purpose of concealing someone's citizenship status is a very serious crime (since it could presumably allow terrorists to enter the country). In many states, any person who manufactures, distributes or sells false documents to conceal the true citizenship of another person is guilty of a felony, and can be sent to state prison for 5 years with a $75,000 fine.
The manufacturing of an ID for the purposes of buying alcohol, on the other hand, usually carries only 6 months - 1 year sentence in jail, and a $1,000 fine. But if that same ID is used to purchase a firearm, and the manufacturer knows this, the crime can jump from a misdemeanor to a felony, with sentences ranging from 1 - 7 years.
These crimes are all determined by state, so each state will have it's own penalties for this sort of offense. Some states, like Virginia, only treat manufacturing fake IDs as a class 1 misdemeanor, meaning it can only have up to a year in prison. Others, like Texas, have cracked down after September 11th, and prosecute ID manufacturers with "tampering with a government document," which is a second degree felony punishable by 20 years in prison.
What If I am Making Them For "Novelty Purposes?"
Merely printing "for novelty purposes only" somewhere on your ID does NOT automatically remove liability on these crimes. If the ID's are meant to resemble any sort of actual government document, you have entered the realm of forging. Exactly where the line is drawn is a matter of judicial discretion (obviously fake ID's might be alright), but creating any sort of phony ID carries quite a risk. Consider that often times people print out $1,000,000 bills on their computer, which any reasonable person would likely realize is false currency, and yet still find themselves arrested for counterfeiting (even if they only tried to use it "as a joke"). The government does not have much of a sense of humor regarding this topic, so unless you are erring widely on the side of caution (i.e. an ID that says you are the king of England), then you may find yourself in trouble.
Are There Any Other Dangers of Manufacturing IDs?
First of all, any equipment you use to make the IDs can (and will) be confiscated by the government. This means your computer, printer, software, anything you used in connection with the manufacturing can be seized. More importantly, if you used your computer to transmit the ID over the Internet, or downloaded illegal ID templates (likely in 99% of modern ID manufacturing cases), you can be charged with telecommunications fraud, a 5th degree felony in most states (usually up to a year in prison and a $1,000 - $2,000 fine), in ADDITION to whatever other forging or tampering charges that are brought up.
Of course, if you are making IDs for things other than obtaining alcohol, the government will be much more severe. If the ID's you are making are for people already over the age of 21 (and thus would not need fake IDs for tobacco or cigarettes), then the state may assume you are trying to aid criminal, or possibly even terrorist, activity, and can slap a number of very harsh state laws on you. As mentioned earlier, if the IDs mention a false citizenship, the crime can become very serious indeed. Many states will assume you are using such IDs for either human trafficking or terrorism purposes, so the stakes are definitely raised (20+ year sentences, in some places).
Do I Need an Attorney?
If you have been arrested for manufacturing ID's of anykind, it is very important you talk to a criminal attorney as soon as possible. Perception plays a very important role in this sort of crime (what was your intent, what were the ID's designed for, etc...), so having a lawyer who knows the law and can explain the differences between the various laws you might be charged with will be essential.
Consult a Lawyer - Present Your Case Now!
Last Modified: 11-11-2011 03:34 PM PST