Am I too worried? Not worried enough?
October 1, 2012 8:07 PM   Subscribe

For how long and in what unforeseen ways will the making of a fake ID continue to haunt me?

You are not my lawyer: In Illinois in the mid 80's when I was 18 or 19 years old, I was arrested during a bar raid for underaged drinking. I had a fake ID at the time that I had made in my own name which the police took. They asked me right then if it was fake and I said yes. Flash forward to early 90's when I went to apply for a state ID and was told to wait off to the side because I had to answer secretary of state's questions (3 or 4 questions akin to, 'do you plan to distribute/sell/create false IDs to minors..' type of thing).

The woman at the DVM who handled this told me it was forgery and that I would have to do this every time I applied for an ID for the rest of my life. She said something else regarding what would happen if I ever applied for a driver's license–but whatever it was that she said, I've completely forgotten it. I had no need to obtain a license at the time and figured I never would.

A few years later when I went to re-new my state ID, the same phone call with questions happened. But, when I went to re-new my state ID this, the most recent time (2009) nothing happened. I didn't ask anyone at the DMV 'why' because I was so happy and didn't want to rock the boat. I assumed that either enough time had elapsed or the law had changed (or that first woman from the DMV in the early 90's was exaggerating about having to check in with the sec of state 'for the rest of my life' for cruel effect).

My problem now is that I suddenly need to go get a driver's license for work reasons. There's really no way around it. But, as I was studying the Rules of the Road today, I got to the section on Revoking and Denial and had this awful sinking feeling. There was a bullet point regarding the making of fraudulent IDs under both of those headings. It mentioned that it would be a year before one was allowed to 're-apply' for a license after it being revoked. It also suggested that it might be permanently revoked. It was not clear. Now, I'm scared that I will be out and out denied or cancelled or something.

I searched google and am horrified to find that making fake IDs is currently considered a felony in certain states (it definitely wasn't considered a felony 25 years ago–or I would have done time in jail–right?!). I should mention that I wasn't ever charged with making a fake ID or for forgery. As well, my charges (everyone's) for the bar raid/underage drinking were dropped due to some glitch or technicality. The fact that the fake ID came back to haunt me when it did was a complete surprise.

I feel worried and irrational and want to be prepared for what might happen--if anything. Will I be flat out denied a diver's license? Revoked? Is that even possible? This is 25 years later. I have never been arrested or in trouble with the law since. I have never applied for a driver's license before. Does anyone have any idea what I might expect? I can't afford a lawyer and there are weirdly few people I feel ok talking to about this. Is there anything I can do to make this go better? Am I going way overboard or is this going to wind up with me in serious trouble (like with a felony on my record) or simply unable to attain a driver's license? Help!

Thanks, Mefi!
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Presumably you would be aware if you had a felony conviction. Did you go to court for that charge? What was the verdict? Current Illinois law states that using an altered but officially produced state ID is a misdemeanor, while using a completely fraudulent one is a felony. You may not have served jail time; as the punishment could be only a fine.
posted by mkb at 8:19 PM on October 1, 2012

This type of peace of mind is worth 2 hours (or less) of time from a lawyer, go ask them what the deal is and how it can be made to no longer be a deal if possible.
posted by iamabot at 8:24 PM on October 1, 2012 [3 favorites]

Sorry, I missed the line about not being able to afford a lawyer, apologies. You can probably do a records search on your name and find out if you have a conviction for anything on your recors or just plane ask the DMV what information they have, if any.
posted by iamabot at 8:26 PM on October 1, 2012

I am extremely confused here.

You were never charged with a crime, nor were you convicted of a crime. It is unclear to me how you could ever be prevented from having a driver's license or any other ID. You have never been told you cannot have a driver's license, nor have you ever been denied any form of state ID.

In short, you are punishing yourself in lieu of the state. Stop doing that.

I can tell you this is absolutely not worth any lawyer's time. Further, on the very off chance you somehow forgot that you were convicted of a crime and somehow forgot that the punishment was permanent denial of driving ability, then I think the chances of you being punished for simply applying for a driver's license are so low as to not warrant consideration.
posted by saeculorum at 8:41 PM on October 1, 2012 [17 favorites]

First, congratulations for going for your driver's license later in life. Second, do just that; apply for your license and not worry about it. If it comes up and becomes an issue which seems next to impossible to me, then get a lawyer.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:03 PM on October 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm not in Illinois, and my infraction was in 1968, using a driver's license (Michigan) that I had changed to make me a couple of years older.

One Christmas Vacation I walked into the liquor store that was two blocks from my apartment at Eastern Michigan University. I had a date with an old girlfriend and wanted to pick up a bottle of Slo Gin (yes, we had no taste).

The clerk, who had accepted that ID for the past 4 months looked at it, kept it, and called the local police. "I've got one you want to look at.", he said to the desk Sargent, and told me I had to wait while the police came to check my ID. Needless to say, I walked out (and had a crappy evening). A few months later I received a letter telling me I had to go to court regarding the altered ID. I went, pleaded guilty to being stupid the misdemeanor charge, paid the fine. I never heard another word about it.

You might be able to relax about this a bit.
posted by HuronBob at 9:08 PM on October 1, 2012 [3 favorites]

IAAL, TINLA, I have no expertise in this area but that of having once been a college student with friends who did similar things. Illinois's punishments for fake IDs were bumped up in the wake of 9/11. The concern is terrorists (or undocumented immigrants generally, I suppose, but the fear was ginned up about terrorists) getting false documents, and the underage drinking fake-ID-mill making that possible. They're much more after the people MAKING fake IDs in large quantities or with great skill, and people using it for financial or work papers fraud. Busting underage kids with IDs helps them find the guys supplying the kids. Anyway, fake IDs weren't taken nearly as seriously in the 80s (I was single-digits old in the 80s so I don't know what punishments were back then, but they were less-serious). You could only be charged under whatever the law was at the time you committed the crime, not what the law is now (plus there are statutes of limitations; you have to be charged within a certain period of time unless we're talking rape or murder or arson, specifically so things DON'T hang over your head forever).

I don't know what's up with the questions the lady asked at the DMV, but even if you were a felon, you could get a driver's license in Illinois. And I have plenty of friends who got caught, and sometimes charged, and sometimes convicted, in college with fake IDs in Illinois who now have drivers' licenses. There can be some period of license suspension for using a fake ID, but it's way, way, way less than 25 years (1 year is the most I've heard of, I don't know if that's the maximum). I have a colleague with MULTIPLE grand theft auto convictions, jail time, etc., and he was issued a license while on parole.

Personally, I'd call the state DMV's hotline, from a payphone if you feel that worried about discovery, and just briefly summarize your story -- fake ID 25 years ago when you were 19 years old, have had state ID, need a license for the first time -- and ask what the process is and what problems might arise. They will appreciate you wanting to come prepared with any necessary documentation! I think it's most likely they'll just verify your lack of subsequent criminal activity in the state database and issue you a license.

Anyway, you are worrying way too much about this. They will give you a license. Call and ask questions and talk to supervisors until you find out exactly what the process and impediments are here, so when you go in, you know what to expect and are armed with information. Also, practical tip, don't go at the end of the month (people's license plate stickers are expiring and lines are long) and don't go on the first business day of the week (Tuesday, at a lot of Illinois DMVs, so they can have Saturday hours). There is no rule you have to go to the DMV closest to you or even one in your county; a lot of Illinoisians go to more rural DMVs for time-consuming DMV things like drivers' tests or arguing about non-standard problems. Urban and suburban DMVs can be hectic and crowded, especially in Cook County (although plenty of them are fine). Ask your friends which is the "good" DMV near you, people will have opinions.

It sounds like you're just talking about a regular car-driving license, but in case you're talking CDL for work, that may be more difficult; Illinois has tightened up on CDLs in the wake of licenses-for-bribes (people died, yet another governor went to prison). That might be time to consult a lawyer.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:01 PM on October 1, 2012 [6 favorites]

Felons get driver's licenses all the time, trust me.

currently considered a felony

This is the key point. Even if they might charge you with a felony today for using a fake ID (probably only in certain circumstances, likely not for just trying to grab a brew), if it was not a felony at the time of your offense they cannot retroactively treat you as a felon. It just doesn't work that way. In almost every case such a law would be unconstitutional.

So, absent a felony conviction back in days of yore, you are not now a convicted felon. Even if you had a revocation because of the fraud, that was ... 25 years ago, and wouldn't count now (even if the records are in the computer, which is itself somewhat of a crapshoot).

I won't go into a Kafkaesque situation I had with the Illinois DMV, but I will say that there are so many anomalies like this the staff see every hour of every day that they will not be phased by it in any way. You do not need to hide or make an anonymous call. The only worry I would have is that you might have to get stuck in a line for an hour only to find you can't solve your problem right away and have to get more paperwork or go to another office or call Springfield before you come back and wait in line again. So try to get to a lightly-used office on a lightly-used hour of a lightly-used day. In the grand scheme of things, this is nothing.
posted by dhartung at 10:35 PM on October 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

I can't afford a lawyer

It might help you to change this thought to "it's not worth shelling out for a lawyer yet, but if it becomes a serious issue then I will save up and find a way to get a lawyer". Because even if it turns out that for some crazy reason you can't get a drivers' license, it shouldn't be too hard for a lawyer to get the whole thing expunged/sealed (erased/gone forever). Having an if-push-comes-to-shove backup plan will help your peace of mind considerably while you go about applying for a license and seeing how it goes.

(I don't hang out with a bad crowd or anything, but enough of my friends did stupid things as just-barely adults that I've seen this played out. You get a lawyer who does this kind of work frequently, you both go in front of the judge, your lawyer explains that it was just a silly, young mistake on your part, you look sad and penitent and say yes/no sir/ma'am as necessary, the judge orders the record to be altered so that it never happened, you walk out a happy person. But don't cheap out on your lawyer, get one who knows what he/she is doing.)
posted by anaelith at 2:40 AM on October 2, 2012

Oh man. This disappeared, like so many youthful indiscretions. Go get your license. Go now; it's a pain in the butt to get together. Nothing will happen. If it somehow does, contact a local law clinic. LET THAT SHAME DISSIPATE!
posted by RJ Reynolds at 6:44 AM on October 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Am I correct there is some sort of arrest and plea on your record?

Are you in Chicago? Are you in Cook County? Go to Chicago Police Department, Access and Review Division, 3510 S. Michigan Avenue, 1st Floor, (312)745-5570. Give them $16 and get a copy of your RAP sheet. Take that to the Cabrini Green Legal Aid help desk at the Richard J. Daley Center, 50 West Washington, 10th Floor, Room 1006. Go as soon as the courthouse opens in the morning and get your name on the list (they only help the first 25 people each day). Someone at the help desk will look through your RAP sheet and look through the computer records and will run through applicable statutes and financial guidelines. They will fill out court filings (if possible) to get your record expunged or sealed. They will determine whether or not you qualify for the fee waiver. If you don't, they will still fill out your paper work, but you will be expected to pay filing costs. They will explain the process to you. You will file the paperwork (assuming you are eligible to have your record expunged or sealed) and within 6 months or so, you will have a court date and your record will be expunged or sealed.

Not in Cook County or Chicago, call Cabrini Green Legal Aid anyway; they do good work with the aftermath of arrests, pleas, convictions and non-prosecuted cases, even ones that were 25 years ago. I think they can help with expungements in other counties, but I don't know the procedure for outside Cook County.

Or, if you are outside Cook County, check out Illinois Legal Aid Online. These really are the best self-help guides in Illinois. You may qualify for their sliding scale fees. You may just be able to get answers from their online guides or their help line. If you can afford it, send them a donation for their help.
posted by crush-onastick at 8:23 AM on October 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

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