Possession of a Forged Driver’s License
PC 470a Law & Defense
Information on the crime of falsifying, altering, or creating a forged driver's license or identification card, is found at California penal code section 470a. The closely related crime of displaying or possessing a forged driver's license is found at penal code section 470b. Both PC 470a and 470b are discussed in this article.
PC 470a & 470b Laws
PC 470a Forging an Identification Card: Every person who alters, falsifies, forges, duplicates or in any manner reproduces or counterfeits any driver's license or identification card issued by a governmental agency with the intent that such driver's license or identification card be used to facilitate the commission of any forgery, is guilty of possessing a forged driver's license or identification card (Abbrev.)
PC 470b Possess or Display a Forged ID Card: Every person who displays or permits to be displayed, or has in his or her possession, any driver's license or identification card, with the intent that such driver's license or identification card be used to facilitate the commission of any forgery, is guilty of possession or displaying a forged license or identification card (Abbrev.).
To prove that the defendant is guilty of PC 470a, falsify, alter, or counterfeit a driver's license or identification card, the district attorney will be required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that:
The defendant altered, forged, counterfeited, or reproduced either a driver's license or a government issued identification card (passport, license, etc.), and
The defendant intended to use the falsified identification card or license to help commit a forgery.
To prove that the defendant is guilty of PC 470b, possessing or displaying a false, altered, or counterfeit driver's license or identification card, the district attorney will need to prove that:
The defendant displayed a government issued identification card (including a driver's license), and
The identification was altered, falsified, forged, or counterfeit, and
The defendant knew that the identification card or driver's license was altered, falsified, forged or counterfeit, and
When the defendant possessed or displayed the fake identification he or she intended that the document be used to commit perjury or fraud
Note: it does not matter if a victim was actually defrauded or lost money or property in order to prove the elements of PC 470a or 470b.
Possession Defined: The defendant does not need to physically possess the forged or altered driver's license in order to be convicted of a PC 470b. Possession means actual possession or constructive possession. Constructive possession means the defendant has right to control the driver's license coupled with access to the forged driver's license. For example, a forged river's license in the defendant's wallet is actual possession, but a forged driver's license in the defendant's vehicle, which is registered to and owned by the defendant, is constructive possession.
PC 470a Classification: PC 470a, forging, altering, or counterfeiting a driver's license or identification card, may be charged as a felony or as a misdemeanor. Whether or not the district attorney files felony or misdemeanor charges depends on the defendant's criminal background and the sophistication of the forgery.
PC 470a Jail Sentence: When PC 470a is charged as a felony the defendant may face up to three years in jail if convicted. When PC 470a is charged as a misdemeanor the defendant may face up to one year in the county jail if convicted.
PC 470b Calssification: PC 470b, possessing or displaying a forged, altered, or counterfeit driver's license or identification card may also be charged as a misdemeanor or as a felony.
PC 470b Jail Sentence: When PC 470b is charged as a felony the defendant may face up to three years in jail if convicted. When PC 470b is charged as a misdemeanor the defendant may face up to one year in the county jail if convicted.
Probation Sentence: A probation sentence is period of being monitored by the court (misdemeanor) or by a probation officer (felony). Probation sentences , with or without some alternative jail sentence such as work release, are available in PC 470a and 470b cases, but they are not guaranteed. Whether or not the defendant will be granted a probation sentence after forging or possession of a forged ID card depends on the facts of the case and the defendant's criminal history, among other factors.
Note: Neither PC 470a, nor PC 470b is considered a serious or violent offense as those terms are defined in California's Three Strikes Sentencing Law; however, both crimes are considered crimes of moral turpitude, which means that any conviction of either PC 470a or 470b will create severe negative consequences for immigration status or professional licensing status.
In addition to any possible jail or prison sentence for violation of PC 470a or 470b the defendant could face any or all of the following additional penalties: harsh probation or parole terms, increased punishment for future violation of the law or probation, restitution, fines, loss of immigration status (for non-citizens), loss or suspension of professional or occupational license, driving privileges lost or suspended, and more.
Defense to PC 470a & 470b
There are many possible defenses to a PC 470a or 470b criminal charge. The defense that is right for the defendant's case depends on the facts of the case and the facts of every case are different. Only a complete review of all the evidence in a defendant's case can reveal which defense is best, but the most common defenses to forging or possession of a forged ID card include: Mistake of fact, insufficient evidence to prove the defendant had knowledge that the license was forged, insufficient evidence to show possession of the license or that the license was going to be used to commit a future forgery, improper police procedure, statute of limitations, and more.
To learn more about PC 470a, forging, altering, counterfeiting, or reproducing a driver's license or government identification card, or PC 470b, possessing or displaying a forged or altered driver's license or identification card, contact our experienced criminal defense attorneys today. There is no fee for a consultation and our attorney are available everyday to answer your questions. Call today!
Quick Legal Reference
Crime: Possession of a Forged Driver's License
Code: PC 470a (CalCrim No. 1921)
Wobbler: Yes. PC 470a is a wobbler crime. This means that PC 470a may be charged as a felony or as a misdemeanor.
Incarceration: Felony PC 470a jail sentence range: 16 months, 2 or 3 years. Misdemeanor jail sentence up to 1 year.
Probation: Probation is allowed in felony and misdemeanor PC 470a cases (assuming other crimes or enhancements that bar a probation sentence are not present). Whether or not a probation sentence is offered by the District Attorney, or granted by the court, depends on several factors, including the defendant's criminal history and the facts of the case.
Work Release or House Arrest: In some cases, a probation sentence can include actual in-custody county jail, house arrest (electronic monitoring), or work release (or some combination of these penalties); however, most in-custody jail sentence orders that are required as a terms of probation are much shorter than the maximum jail sentence.
PC 1170(h)): Yes. PC 470a is subject to PC 1170(h) sentencing. This means that any jail or prison sentence may be:
Split (half in-custody / half out-of-custody)
Suspended (possibly never served)
Served in county jail (not state prison)
Note: Limitations may apply
Strike: PC 470a is not a strike offense listed in California's Three Strikes law.
Credits: 50% good conduct credits available.
CIMT: PC 470a is a crime involving moral turpitude, which means that an arrest or conviction could lead to the following:
Professional Licensing problems
Impeachment on credibility
Firearms: Felony PC 470a convictions prohibit a defendant from owning or possessing a firearm.
Bail: $25,000 (Felony); $5,000 (Misdemeanor) (San Bernardino)
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