False identification is used for many types of fraudulent activities, including illegal purchase of alcohol and cigarettes, check fraud, bank fraud, social security fraud and immigration fraud. Advanced computer graphics technology and color copiers have made it easier to produce fake IDs and harder for law enforcers or retailers to detect them.
Retailers' Rights and Responsibilities
Store clerks and sellers and servers of alcoholic beverages or tobacco products must carefully read identification presented for proof of age. According to the Virginia Administrative Code (5-50-20), a licensee or its employees can use the following factors to determine whether or not to make a sale:
- Whether an ordinary person would doubt the purchaser is of legal age based on appearance
- Whether the purchaser presents identification upon request and appears to be the individual pictured on the document and of the legal age (21 for alcohol; 18 for tobacco products)
- Whether the identification is in proper order, has not been altered and has not expired.
If a clerk or server suspects an imposter, an altered ID, or a fake ID, he or she can request to see a second form of identification. Some signs that an ID has been altered include photos that are cut out and glued over the original one, cut marks, bumps or tears in the lamination and lettering that doesn't match the rest of the card. ABC offers training to retailers regarding fake IDs, among other topics.
The holder of the fake ID, and not the retailer, is held fully responsible when the ID appears to be legitimate and meets the minimum standards imposed by the regulations. For a copy of the ID Checking Guide, contact the Drivers License Guide Company at 1-800-227-8827.
Summary of the Law
Fraudulent Use of Birth Certificates and Driver's Licenses
- It is illegal to use another's identification as one's own.
- It is illegal to possess or sell an ID for the purpose of establishing a false identification.
- Persons who possess, use or distribute fake IDs are charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor. If the document is used to purchase a firearm, the charges increase to a Class 6 felony.
Facsimile or Manufacture, Sale, etc., or Possession of Fictitious, Simulated Official License or ID
- It is illegal to possess, produce or distribute a falsified document that can be mistaken as an official government document.
- Violators face Class 1 misdemeanor charges for the sale or production of such ID and Class 2 misdemeanor charges for possession of such ID.
Fraudulent Use of Driver's License or ID Card to Obtain Alcoholic Beverages
- Any underage person found using a falsified DMV driver's license or military or university identification card to purchase alcoholic beverages faces conviction of a Class 3 misdemeanor.
- Convicted individuals may lose their driver's license for 30 days to one year.
Purchasing or Possessing Alcoholic Beverages Unlawful in Certain Cases
- It is illegal for anyone under 21 to possess any alcoholic beverage.
- No one under 21 may use an altered or fake ID such as a driver's license, birth certificate or student identification card to establish a false identification or false age to purchase an alcoholic beverage.
- Violators of this section are guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor and, upon conviction, face a fine of at least $500 or 50 hours of community service, and can lose their driver's license for up to one year.