Crimes at the New York DMV: From Fake Drivers Licenses to Filing False Information

The New York State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) has facial recognition technology that is both sophisticated and widely utilized. DMV Investigators, somewhat similar to an NYPD Detective, use face recognition technology in conjunction with old fashion investigatory skills to review applications for New York State Drivers Licenses to determine whether an applicant has previously applied for and received a drivers license under a fake name or alias. Further, the DMV investigators look to see whether an applicant has old and outstanding summonses or suspensions on his or her license. So, what is it that you expose yourself to when making certain misrepresentations at the DMV? What felony and misdemeanor crimes are you exposed to and what should you discuss with your criminal defense attorney to navigate an arrest should it occur?

Even where a prior fraudulent or fake application and licenses is ten or more years old, for example, DMV investigators can locate an old application and  arrest an offender who claims on the new application that he or she never applied for or had a New York State Drivers License. Notice that this is different than being arrested for possessing or fraudulently securing the old license. The unfortunate reality for many people in this situation is that whether you apply at the DMV in Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, Bronx, White Plains, or any county or municipality, once you make the misrepresentation on the paperwork even if the substantive fraud and fake driver’s license offense is well outside the statute of limitations, DMV investigators can (and often do) arrest you for a felony crime.

Out of the gate, once you edit, draft, complete, alter, or provide false information on government paperwork filed with the DMV and you do so with the intent to defraud the State of New York, you are committing a Second Degree Forgery pursuant to New York Penal Law 170.10. While the act of drafting or completing this form is a Second Degree Forgery, the document itself violates New York Penal Law 170.25, Second Degree Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument. Both of these crimes are Class “D” felonies with potential sentences of up to seven years in prison. At bottom, if and when you lie on the paperwork about not having a past drivers license, while it may seem fairly harmless to you the DMV and local prosecutors will likely beg to differ.

Another offense that you will have likely violated is a lesser known crime of First Degree Offering a False Instrument for Filing. You violate New York Penal Law 170.35 when you knowingly file, with the intent to defraud, an instrument (drivers license application) containing false information with a state, county, local or other governmental agency. Though “only” a Class “E” felony, this crime is punishable by as “little” as four years in prison.

The unfortunate reality is that many otherwise good people free of criminal wrongdoing get caught up not for a mistake they may have made six, twelve or even more years ago, but for misrepresenting the fact that they had an old drivers license – fraudulent or otherwise. Not thinking the decade old license in either their name or another is of any consequence, upon applying for a new license these people set off a chain of events that end in arrests and prosecutions.

While each case is unique and distinct, the scenario often plays out the same. DMV Investigators call the accused or show up at their home to arrest the offender, charge him or her with felonies and bring that person to down to Central Booking to eventually be arraigned before a criminal court judge. Fortunately for many clients of Saland Law PC accused of these offenses, and as recent as the past few weeks, despite the initial arrest and allegations the clients had their cases reduced to non-criminal resolutions and even dismissed. Irrespective of how your arrest occurs, remember to exercise your right to remain silent, contact counsel, and prepare to defend yourself against the allegations.

To educate yourself on this “DMV Crime”, defenses and general information on offenses involving Forgery, Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument and Offering a False Instrument for Filing in this context and others, review both this blog and

Saland Law PC is a New York criminal defense firm founded by two former Manhattan prosecutors.

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