Forged or Counterfeit Driver's License or ID
California Penal Code sections 470a
Information on the crime of falsifying, altering, or creating a forged driver's license or identification card, is found at California penal code section 470a. The closely related crime of displaying a forged driver's license is found at penal code section 470b. Both PC 470a and 470b are discussed in this article.
PC 470 Laws
PC 470a: Every person who alters, falsifies, forges, duplicates or in any manner reproduces or counterfeits any driver's license or identification card issued by a governmental agency with the intent that such driver's license or identification card be used to facilitate the commission of any forgery, is punishable by imprisonment in the state prison, or by imprisonment in the county jail for not more than one year.
PC 470b: Every person who displays or causes or permits to be displayed or has in his possession any driver's license or identification card with the intent that such driver's license or identification card be used to facilitate the commission of any forgery, is punishable by imprisonment in the state prison, or by imprisonment in the county jail for not more than one year.
To prove that the defendant is guilty of PC 470a, falsify, alter, or counterfeit a driver's license or identification card, the district attorney will be required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that:
- The defendant altered, forged, counterfeited, or reproduced either a driver's license or a government issued identification card (passport, license, etc.), and
- The defendant intended to use the falsified identification card or license to help commit a forgery.
To prove that the defendant is guilty of PC 470b, possessing or displaying a false, altered, or counterfeit driver's license or identification card, the district attorney will need to prove that:
- The defendant displayed a government issued identification card (including a driver's license), and
- The identification was altered, falsified, forged, or counterfeit, and
- The defendant knew that the identification card or driver's license was altered, falsified, forged or counterfeit, and
- When the defendant possessed or displayed the fake identification he or she intended that the document be used to commit perjury.
PC 470a differs from PC 470b in that PC 470a is charged where the defendant makes or creates a false identification card or driver's license for the purpose of committing a future forgery, whereas PC 470b is charged when the defendant possesses or displays the forged license or identification card with the intent to commit forgery.
Note: it does not matter if a victim was actually defrauded or lost money or property in order to prove the elements of possessing a forged driver's license under PC 470b.
Also, the defendant does not need to actually touch the forged or altered driver's license in order to be convicted of a PC 470b. Possession means actual possession or constructive possession, which is right to control the driver's license.
Sentence & Punishment for PC 470a & 470b
PC 470a, forging, altering, or counterfeiting a driver's license or identification card, may be charged as a felony or as a misdemeanor. Whether or not the district attorney files felony or misdemeanor charges depends on the defendant's criminal background and the sophistication of the forgery.
When PC 470a is charged as a felony the defendant may face up to three years in prison if convicted. When PC 470a is charged as a misdemeanor the defendant may face up to one year in the county jail if convicted.
PC 470b, possessing or displaying a forged, altered, or counterfeit driver's license or identification card may also be charged as a misdemeanor or as a felony.
When PC 470b is charged as a felony the defendant may face up to three years in prison if convicted. When PC 470b is charged as a misdemeanor the defendant may face up to one year in the county jail if convicted.
In many cases it may be possible to have the charges reduced or dismiss. Whether or not any PC 470a or PC 470b charge is reduced or dismissed will depend on the facts of the case as well as the defendant's criminal history.
In addition to any possible jail or prison sentence for violation of PC 470a or 470b the defendant could face any or all of the following additional penalties: harsh probation or parole terms, increased punishment for future violation of the law or probation, restitution, fines, loss of immigration status (for non-citizens), loss or suspension of professional or occupational license, driving privileges lost or suspended, and more.
Neither PC 470a, nor PC 470b is considered a serious or violent offense as those terms are defined in California's Three Strikes Sentencing Law; however, both crimes are considered crimes of moral turpitude, which means that any conviction of either PC 470a or 470b will create severe negative consequences for immigration status or professional licensing status.
Defenses to PC 470a & 470b
There are many possible defenses to a PC 470a or 470b criminal charge. The defense or defenses that are right for the defendant's case depends on the facts of the case. Only a complete review of all the evidence in a defendant's case can reveal which defense is best but the most common defenses to a PC 470a or 470b charge include: insufficient evidence to prove the defendant had knowledge that the license was forged, insufficient evidence to show possession of the license or that the license was going to be used to commit a future forgery, improper police procedure, statute of limitations, and more.
To learn more about PC 470a, forging, altering, counterfeiting, or reproducing a driver's license or government identification card, or PC 470b, possessing or displaying a forged or altered driver's license or identification card, contact our experienced criminal defense attorneys today. There is no fee for a consultation and our attorney are available 24/7 to answer all of your questions. Call today!
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Crimes related to PC 470b & 470b
- Forgery PC 470(a)
- Forgery of Seals PC 472
- Forging a Prescription HS 11368