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What You Need To Know About Identity Document Forgery

Copying or modifying identity documents like driver’s licenses and passports is a very common trope in movie and TV thrillers.

In real life, however, identity document forgery is a serious criminal offense. In the eyes of the law, people forging identity documents are no different from those committing different types of theft or any other crime.

Once arrested and convicted, identity document forgers will be at the receiving end of severe penalties and will need a good criminal lawyer to help them avoid those consequences.

Here are several things you need to know about identity document forgery.

Forged Identity Documents Can Be Used For The Worst Crimes

Many among us might think that a fake ID doesn’t do much harm than give minors an opportunity to buy alcoholic drinks freely.

Forged identity documents, however, are widely used in the commission of numerous crimes, some of them considered among the worst.

Organized crime, for example, makes good use of identity document forgery to launder their money, access certain goods and services, and withdraw money from bank accounts that aren’t theirs.

Those who engage in human smuggling and trafficking also take to faking passports and other administrative documents to get their victims through immigration to a life of modern slavery.

Terrorists all over the world have also managed to slip into their target countries with the help of fake passports, visas, and other identity documents and conduct strikes that hurt or kill dozens or even hundreds of people.

Acts Considered As Forging of Identity Documents

When a person is caught committing any of the following acts, he or she will be arrested on suspicion of identity document forgery:

  • Making a counterfeit copy of an original passport, driver’s license, entry visa, and other identity documents
  • Creating a non-existent, entirely fictitious identity document
  • Stealing an identity document
  • Tampering with the original identity document by replacing photos, pages, and specific personal information contained within

Governments Are Stepping Up Their Forged Identity Document Detection Capabilities

While it’s true that aspects of modern technology such as printers, scanners, photo editing software, and the Internet itself have been making it easier for identity document forgers to do their thing, governments everywhere have been implementing intensified security measures against identity document forgery.

Government agencies are combating the proliferation of fake identity documents by using hi-tech innovations on the IDs they issue. Most government IDs now have security features such as biometric chips, holographic laminates, PIN protection, and other technological innovations that improve their ability to detect counterfeit documents.

Authorities are also providing their officials with more training to improve their skills at spotting fake identity documents.

The Consequences of Identity Document Forgery

In the United States, identity document forgery and other forms of forgery are generally treated as a felony in all 50 states.

There are also federal laws that punish the forgery of immigration documents rather severely.

Under 18 U.S. Code § 1543, for example, forgery or false use of passport is punishable with fines and lengthy prison sentences, the length of which will depend on whether the crime was committed to facilitate certain criminal acts.

If the forged passport was used to facilitate international terrorist acts, the offender could face up to 25 years in prison.

A 20-year prison sentence awaits those who willingly and knowingly use a forged passport to facilitate drug trafficking offenses.

Some users of forged passports may only face 10 to 15 years in prison. However, they need to prove that they didn’t do it to enable acts of international terrorism or drug trafficking crimes.

Practically the same prison sentences are handed down to people who knowingly forge, counterfeit, alter, or use an immigrant or nonimmigrant visa and other entry documents into the United States as per 18 U.S. Code § 1546.

Considering the severity of the penalties for committing identity document forgery, those accused of the crime will need a criminal defense lawyer's help to give them a fighting chance in court.

Should you find yourself in such a situation, contact a skilled and experienced criminal defense lawyer immediately and work together to mount a legal defense that will get you the best results.

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