A fake identification is grounds for arrest whether you’re a college student at Columbia or NYU, a high school kid visiting New York City or you are a foreign national in need of some form of ID to work. Simply, there is nothing found in New York Penal Law 170.20 or New York Penal Law 170.25 that mandates an evil intent to perpetrate a terroristic or immigration fraud crime. While prosecutors in a respective District Attorney’s Office and the NYPD or local police department may pursue a criminal case however they deem fit, as a preliminary matter whenever you have a fake passport or drivers license the crime technically is a class D felony pursuant to PL 170.25. As such, a conviction not only allows for up to two and one third to seven years in prison, but a felony conviction is life altering. Fortunately (relatively speaking), in the scenario of a young man or woman who may have that ID for the purpose of going to a club or bar, as opposed to some other nefarious reason, the crime is often prosecuted through a Desk Appearance Ticket in New York City whereby the accused must return at a later date to face arraignment with their criminal lawyer on the charge of PL 170.20, a misdemeanor.
Putting aside whether a Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument arrest is prosecuted as a felony for a second degree crime or as a misdemeanor for a third degree offense, what are the elements that must first be established with probable cause and ultimately beyond a reasonable doubt? Following the language of the misdemeanor PL 170.20 that is the baseline of these crimes prior to any felony enhancements, the language is as follows: You are guilty of Third Degree Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument when you have knowledge that it is forged and you have the intent to defraud, deceive or injury another person, you possess or utter that particular forged instrument.
This blog entry will further analyze the crime of PL 170.20 in the context of a fake identification and the thresholds that much be reached by the District Attorney’s Office to secure a conviction.