Using a fake ID is all-too-common these days, and many teens and young adults see it as a harmless way to circumvent the drinking age. According to one underage drinking study, 77 percent of underage college students admit to drinking alcohol, and 18 percent reported using a fake ID to obtain alcohol.

Using a fake ID is approximately twice as likely (14 percent vs. 7 percent) for college freshmen as it is for 16-19 year olds not in college. In a larger study, 7.5 percent of 18-20 year olds report using a fake ID in the past month, and there is a clear link between fake ID ownership and increased consumption of alcohol.

While it may seem easy and commonplace, having a fake ID can have serious legal consequences, including:

  1. Misdemeanor or felony convictions: California Penal Code 470b prohibits California residents from displaying or possessing fake identification, which includes any government-issued identification card that has been altered, falsified, forged, duplicated, or counterfeited. Under California law, possession/use of a fake ID is a wobbler, meaning it can be tried as a misdemeanor or a felony (depending on the circumstances of the case). A misdemeanor conviction comes with up to 1 year in county jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000. A felony conviction comes with 16 months, 2 years, or 3 years in jail, as well as a fine of up to $10,000.
  2. Fraud charges: It is illegal to possess and/or use fake identification, which can open you up to fraud charges. In addition, you could face charges for other associated crimes, like possessing alcohol as a minor.
  3. License revocation: While this is not the case in California, possession of a fake ID or giving fradulent information to obtain a government ID is punishable by revoking one’s driver’s license for a period of time in certain states.
  4. Criminal records: If you are over 18 and convicted of a fake ID offense, it could stay on your criminal record for many years to come. This criminal record can affect your college applications, job applications, and other aspects of your life for years and years, and many employers do not look kindly on fraud-related convictions. Minors caught using fake IDs may be able to get the juvenile conviction expunged, but even this is no guarantee.
  5. Identity theft: Giving out your personal identification information to someone making you a fake ID puts you at serious risk for identity theft.