If your child is arrested after using a fake ID to buy alcohol, you probably think that, while it's not great, it's not the end of the world. Unfortunately, charges for using, possessing, or making a fake ID in New Jersey can be serious. Aside from possible criminal penalties and fines, a criminal record can follow your child, affecting their ability to obtain scholarships, continue their education, and obtain professional licenses.
If your child plans to head off to Seton Hall, Keene University, or Union College, or if they're already in college or starting a career, a fake ID conviction could have long-lasting consequences. Fortunately, your child is innocent until proven guilty, and an experienced New Jersey criminal defense attorney can help. In this article, we'll discuss some of the most common questions from our clients in Union County about fake ID charges in New Jersey.
Fake ID Charges in Union County
Many of us grew up thinking that being arrested for using a fake ID isn't a big deal. After all, everyone tries it, right? But using a fake ID, buying or selling a fake ID, or possessing a fake ID in New Jersey can lead to serious consequences and even felony charges.
- Selling a Fake ID New Jersey law makes it illegal to “knowingly” sell, offer, transfer, or “possess with the intent to sell or offer” any fake ID. A conviction for selling or attempting to sell a fake ID is a second-degree indictable offense, equivalent to a felony. Selling a fake ID is punishable by five to ten years in prison and a $15,000 fine. See N.J.S.A. § 2C:21-2.1(a). Even “transferring” a fake ID to a friend could result in felony charges.
- Possessing Materials to Make a Fake ID Under New Jersey law, knowingly making a fake ID or possessing a device or materials to make a fake driver's license, birth certificate, or any other governmentally issued form of identification is illegal. Making a fake ID is a second-degree indictable offense. A conviction for this charge can be punished by five to ten years in prison and up to a $15,000 fine. See N.J.S.A. § 2C:21-2.1(b).
- Using a Fake ID Under New Jersey law, displaying, exhibiting, or otherwise using a fake driver's license, birth certificate, or other government-issued forms of identification is illegal. Using a fake ID is a third-degree indictable offense, similar to a felony, in New Jersey. A conviction is punishable by three to five years in prison and up to a $15,000 fine. See N.J.S.A. § 2C:21-2.1(c).
- Possessing a Fake ID Under New Jersey law, possessing a fake driver's license, a fake birth certificate, or any fake government-issued identification is illegal. Possessing a fake ID is a fourth-degree indictable offense. While this is the least serious level of an indictable offense, it is still equivalent to a felony charge. A conviction for a fourth-degree indictable offense is punishable by up to 18 months in prison and a $10,000 fine. See N.J.S.A. § 2C:21-2.1(d).
- Tampering With an Official ID Under New Jersey law, tampering with an official ID is also illegal. “Tampering” an official ID includes altering the name or information on an authentic government ID. So, the police could charge someone with tampering with an official ID if it appears that someone changed the name or age on a real New Jersey ID or driver's license. A conviction for tampering with an ID is a third-degree indictable offense, similar to a felony. A third-degree indictable offense is punishable by three to five years in prison and up to a $15,000 fine. See N.J.S.A. § 2C:28-7(b).
If the police charge your child with possessing, selling, or using a fake ID after using the ID to attempt to buy something people under 21 can't buy, such as alcohol, cannabis, or tobacco, the state typically won't bring an indictable offense or felony charges. However, if your child attempted to commit additional fraud with the fake ID, they could face additional indictable offenses. The police can also charge them with multiple fake ID charges, depending on the circumstances of the case.
Juvenile Fake ID Charges in Union County
The consequences can still be serious if your child is a juvenile and charged with using or possessing a fake ID. However, the police typically charge juvenile fake ID offenses as “disorderly persons offenses” rather than indictable offenses or felonies. A “disorderly persons offense” is the equivalent of a misdemeanor in other states, and punishment is typically limited to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. In New Jersey's juvenile system, convictions don't always result in “jail time.” Rather, the courts will also:
- Release a minor to their parents with the stipulation that they'll return for hearings
- Place a minor with a custodial agency
- Release a minor to their parents with home detention, “house arrest,” or other monitoring
- Any other reasonable alternatives
If your child is under 18 and facing a fake ID charge, they are entitled to have an attorney if the charge can result in jail time or juvenile detention. You don't have to have an attorney, but many juvenile courts have their own procedural rules. The entire process can be challenging to navigate on your own. Having an attorney representing your child gives them the best chance of avoiding a criminal record.
Why Hire an Attorney for a Fake ID Charge?
The police in Union County have wide latitude in deciding whether to charge your child with a misdemeanor or felony-level offense or to charge them with multiple offenses. At times, the police and prosecutor will charge someone with multiple crimes to get them to plead guilty. Don't let the police railroad your child. Avoiding a serious conviction is most likely with an experienced criminal defense attorney like Joseph D. Lento protecting their rights.
Expunging Fake ID Charges in Union County
While the best way to avoid a criminal history is to avoid a conviction, sometimes you must deal with the consequences of a sentence and conviction after the fact. Fortunately, the state of New Jersey offers options to clear a criminal record or seal it from public view, including expungement.
Expungement allows you to obtain a court order to remove arrest or criminal records, giving your child more options for their future career and education. New Jersey law defines expungement as the “extraction, sealing, impounding, or isolation of all records on file within any court, detention or correctional facility, law enforcement or criminal justice agency concerning a person's detection, apprehension, arrest, detention, trial or disposition of an offense within the criminal justice system.” Records your child can expunge include “complaints, warrants, arrests, commitments, processing records, fingerprints, photographs, index cards, “rap sheets” and judicial docket records.” N.J.S.A. 2C:52-1 (2019).
Under New Jersey law, you can expunge a record under some limited circumstances, depending on how many convictions your child has and the type of charges.
- You Can Expunge Disorderly Persons Offenses If you don't have any prior criminal history, your child may be able to seek a traditional expungement. A traditional expungement will allow you to expunge up to five disorderly persons offenses, including petty disorderly persons offenses. You'll have to wait five years after your child completes their sentence, including paying any fines, before they will be eligible. If your child also has a conviction for an indictable or felony offense, they can expunge up to three disorderly persons offenses. And with New Jersey's early pathway option, they may only need to wait three years to expunge these convictions in some circumstances. See N.J.S.A. 2C:52-3 (2019).
- You Can Expunge an Entire Record Under New Jersey's Clean Slate Law Several years ago, New Jersey's legislature passed a “clean slate” law to give people in New Jersey with a criminal record a second chance. Under the clean slate law, your child can expunge their entire arrest and conviction record ten years after completing their sentence. The clean slate law can also allow your child to expunge records that weren't eligible in the past because they had too many convictions or had already sought one expungement.
- You Can Expunge Juvenile Offenses There are also some expungement options for convictions or arrests your child may have had before they turned 18. Under New Jersey law, you can expunge an entire juvenile record except for serious charges that adults can't have expunged, like murder and other serious, violent crimes. Your child must wait three years after completing a juvenile sentence or supervision before expunging these records. See N.J.S.A. 2C:52-4.1 (2019).
While expungement is a useful tool for removing records from the public view, in New Jersey, expungement won't destroy these records; they will still exist. Law enforcement agencies like the state police and the FBI will remove your records from their databases, but they can still access them. If your child applies for a job with law enforcement, in the military, or with the court system, or if they need a security clearance in the future, agencies can still access their expunged New Jersey criminal records. As a result, it's essential to ensure your child has an experienced criminal defense attorney representing them for fake ID charges in New Jersey. This is your child's best chance of avoiding a criminal conviction. A criminal record truly is forever.
Hire an Experienced Union County Defense Attorney
If you have a college student facing fake ID charges in Union County or a high school student in the Union, Westfield, Plainfield, Scotch Plains, Elizabeth, or other Union County school districts, you need to take these charges seriously. Even without felony or indictable offense charges, a criminal conviction can affect your child's future for a long time.