Recent changes in local budgets — Austin Police, Travis County Sheriff's Office, as well as the Prosecutor's office — has seen a rise in underage drinking enforcement, meaning more arrests and citations in the City of Austin as well as Travis County. But not all fake ID or false license cases are equal. Offenses for False ID can range from a Class C Misdemeanor all the way to a Felony.
When referring to the use of a Fake ID or License, there are four main statutes that can be used in Texas:
The majority of Fake ID cases in Austin, Travis County, fall under the Class C "Misrepresentation of Age" offense. That's where a person under 21 years of age attempts to use a Fake ID to enter a bar or buy alcohol. An underage person might hand a fake ID to a doorman, cashier, or bartender. If the ID was made by someone other than the Government, such as printed on a printer and laminated (an obvious fake), then it's also Misrepresentation of Age.
For more info, read our Misrepresentation of Age page.
Texas Transportation Code § 521.451 controls the Fake ID laws, which states that a person may not “display, cause or permit to be displayed, or have in the person’s possession” a license that the person knows to be fake or altered. Possession of a Fake ID under 521.451 is a Class A misdemeanor, which is punishable by between 0-365 days in the County Jail, and by fines up to $4,000.
So what about all the college kids who get cited for using a friend's ID at a bar? Is that really a Class A Misdemeanor? It used to be, until Transportation Code § 521.451(5)(c) fixed it. Now, that situation if the person’s conduct ALSO consitutes Misrepresentation of Age, then the offense can ONLY be Misrepresentaiton of Age. A problem arises if the ID is found BEFORE getting to the bar -- meaning mere possession without use for an underager could result in a Class A arrest rather than a Class C citation.
A Fictitious Driver’s License offense occures when a person, with the intent to represent that they are over 21, has a fake ID that's “deceptively similar” to an actual driver’s license or ID card. The test is whether “a reasonable person would assume that it was issued by the [government].” So it really depends on the ID or license. It's strange that poor quality Fake IDs would be Misrepresentation of Age tickets, while extremely well made Fake IDs would have a eperate offense. Luckily for the arrested, Fictitious Driver’s License is also a Class C misdemeanor. This offense is also extremly rare in Austin or Travis County, since officers will usually just cite Misrepresentation of Age.
Now for the serious offense, Tampering with a Government Record. Texas Penal Code 37.10 deals with Tampering with a Governmental Record. In summary, Tampering with a Government Record is when a person alters a Government document to the degree that information is changed. It's more techincal than that, but an example would be a real Driver's License where the birthdate year has been scratched off, with a new year typed over it, and relaminated. Caselaw has clarified that the ID or license in question must actully be a government issued document — not a complete forgery (Thompson v. State, 215 S.W.3d 557).
The punishment ranges from a Class C Misdemeanor to a 2nd Degree Felony, although it's typically charged as a Third Degree Felony.
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