Many people would be surprised to know that possessing a fake ID in the state of Illinois can result in felony charges. While it has been a right of passage for young people to use fake IDs to buy alcohol and get admitted to over-21 establishments, the law in Illinois punishes this practice severely.
The stiff penalty established by lawmakers in Springfield can be attributed to the state’s campaign against underage drinking, and also to a policy of prosecuting illegal immigrants who use fraudulent IDs such as driver’s licenses and social security cards for employment in the United States. Each problem has identifiable victims, lawmakers have said. Underage drinking results in fatal DUI accidents and undocumented immigrants steal people’s identities. And so, the Illinois legislature has made it a felony to possess a fake ID regardless of the circumstances.
Possession of a fraudulent identification card is a Class 4 felony offense. The statute that establishes the penalties for this crime is 15 ILCS 335/14B.
The statute says that a person is guilty if he knowingly possesses, displays, or causes to be displayed any fraudulent identification card. 15 ILCS 325/14B(b)(1).
As a Class 4 felony, the potential punishment for this offense includes 1 to 3 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections. However, the offense is probationable. Thus, the judge can sentence the offender to probation as opposed to a term of imprisonment.
Illinois law says that a felony offense has a mandatory minimum penalty of conviction. A conviction is a permanent record. It can never be expunged or sealed.
Even on the offender’s first arrest, if he is found guilty, the court cannot sentence him to supervision. Supervision is not available for felonies. Therefore, even a first offender would receive a permanent record for a fake ID.
The statute requires the court to impose a minimum fine of $500 or 50 hours of community service, preferably at an alcohol abuse prevention program on conviction. See 15 ILCS 325/14B(c)(1). This directive shows the legislature’s intent to address the social ill of underage drinking during sentencing.
In the case of a fake ID, the punishment does not fit the crime. A felony is too harsh. But the law is the law.
The law distinguishes a fraudulent ID from a fictitious or altered ID. A fraudulent ID is a fake ID in the truest sense. It was not issued by any government entity, and it does not belong to any individual.
A fictitious or altered ID, by comparison, is an ID that was issued by the government and belongs to someone but has been altered in some respect, such as a change in the date of birth or other information.
The definition of a fraudulent identification card, basically, is any identification card which purports to be or resembles an official identification card.
The penalties for a fraudulent ID increase under certain circumstances. For example, any person who knowingly possesses a fraudulent ID will be guilty of a Class 3 felony under the following circumstances:
- Where the purpose is obtaining any account, credit, credit card or debit card from a bank, financial institution or retail mercantile establishment.
- With intent to commit a theft, deception or credit or debit card fraud.
- With intent to commit a felony.
- While simultaneously possessing any document, instrument or device capable of defrauding another.
- With the intent to use the identification card to acquire any other identification document.
See 15 ILCS 335/14B(b)(2)-(6) and for sentencing, 14D(c)(2). (Where the defendant has a prior, the penalty is enhanced to a Class 2 felony.)
The Illinois legislature has also made it a felony to make fake IDs. The statute provides that it is a Class 3 felony to knowingly duplicate, manufacture, sell or transfer any fraudulent identification card or possess any implement that enables a person to make fake IDs. 15 ILCS 335/14B(b)(7)-(9).
It is a Class A misdemeanor offense to advertise or distribute any material that promotes the selling, giving, or furnishing of fraudulent identification cards. 15 ILCS 335/14B(c)(3). The Secretary of State can seek an injunction in court against anyone engaged in such a practice. See 335/14B(e).
Despite the harsh laws, cases such as these can be won. In all possession-type cases, the legal issue is whether the police had probable cause. If the police had no probable cause to detain or search the person, then the attorney should pursue a motion to quash and suppress. This is a 4th Amendment issue. If the defendant prevails at hearing, the evidence would be excluded and the prosecution would have no case. Qualified counsel should be consulted immediately.