We have discussed the forgery laws in New Yorkin general. This post will cover the a common type of arrest in New York City: underage people being caught with a fake ID or New York State Driver’s license. Many young people in the greater New York City area carry a fake ID in order to get into bars before they are 21. While this seems to be a fairly innocuous reason to carry a fake ID, the law in New York can be quite unexpectedly severe. Consider the base forgery statute, which criminalizes the possession of any “forged instrument,” which is defined as a “written instrument which has been falsely made, completed or altered.”
PL 170.00(7). Criminal possession of a forged instrument in the third degree: “A person is guilty of criminal possession of a forged instrument in the third degree when, with knowledge that it is forged and with intent to defraud, deceive or injure another, he utters or possesses a forged instrument. Criminal possession of a forged instrument in the third degree is a class A misdemeanor.” PL 170.20.
These provisions work to actually criminalize the possession of a fake or forged driver’s license. However, prosecutorial experience teaches us that that in certain situations, having something like this can actually lead to felony charges. This is because the next level up in the statutory scheme reads as follows:
PL 170.25 Criminal possession of a forged instrument in the second degree. A person is guilty of criminal possession of a forged instrument in the second degree when, with knowledge that it is forged and with intent to defraud, deceive or injure another, he utters or possesses any forged instrument of a kind specified in section 170.10. Criminal possession of a forged instrument in the second degree is a class D felony. And, PL 170.10(3) specifically includes “A written instrument officially issued or created by a public office, public servant or governmental instrumentality . . .”
Problems may compound if the circumstances under which the arrestee is found in possession of the forged or fake driver’s license are egregious. For example, if a person is found with marijuana and a fake ID, a prosecutor may be more inclined to proceed with serious criminal charges than had the forged driver’s license been the only possible charge.
In any event, should you or a loved one be found facing charges, whether through a processed arrest or through the issuance of a desk appearance ticket, you should immediately consult with experienced former prosecutors with experience in New York forged or fake ID cases.