California’s False Representation of ID to a Police Officer: Penal Code 148.9

Have you falsely identified yourself with the police and now face legal repercussions? It is usually uncomfortable to be stopped, questioned, detained, or arrested by the police, no matter the circumstances. The act of talking to the police can make things difficult for some people who prefer their privacy, which includes anonymity from any authorities. This preference may lead them to give a false or fictitious name to police officers, thinking they are not doing anything wrong. As it stands, providing the wrong identification information to a police officer is a crime. 

To get a clearer understanding of this law, let’s take a look at how California defines it.

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Defining False Identification to a Police Officer

California outlines the false representation of identification to a police officer under Penal Code 148.9. It states any person who commits the following is guilty of a misdemeanor:

  • Knowingly and intentionally providing false ID,
    • Giving a fictitious or false name, or
    • The name of someone else, and/or
    • The incorrect birthdate.
  • to a police officer while either being lawfully detained or arrested,
    • This excludes casual encounters with a police officer in which both parties are consensually conversating.
  • in order to avoid any court proceedings or to avoid presenting the correct ID to that police officer.

Associated Offenses

California Penal Code 148, resisting arrest

You commit this crime when you willfully obstruct or resist a peace officer or an EMT (emergency medical technician) while they are performing their official duties.

California Penal Code 529, false impersonation

It is illegal to pretend to be someone else and behave in such a way that would make that person liable for legal trouble or make them responsible for paying money.

California Penal Code 530.5, identity theft

Taking another person’s personal identifying information and using it to commit fraud or other illegal acts is a crime.

California Business and Professions Code 25662, minor in possession of alcohol in a public place

This crime is committed when a minor, someone under the age of 21, is in possession of an alcoholic beverage while in a public place.

California Vehicle Code 4463, vehicle registration fraud

This crime is committed when someone alters, fakes, forges, or falsifies vehicle registration materials intending to pass them off as true.

California Vehicle Code 31, providing false statements/information to a police officer

Giving false information, either orally or in writing, to a police officer while they are engaged in their official duties is a crime.

Who Can Be Charged

Let’s explore situations that can lead to being charged with PC 148.9, presenting false ID to a police officer. The following examples detail how a simple falsehood could lead to a misdemeanor conviction.

Example 1:

Sarah, who is 19 years old, was at a beach party drinking. There were other underage partiers there as well. The police were called and suspected unlawful alcohol consumption. When an officer asked Sarah for her birthdate, she gave him an incorrect date.

Sarah could be charged with PC 148.9 for providing a false birthdate to the police officer while he was conducting his duties. Also, because she was a minor and was caught drinking alcohol on a public beach, she may also face a minor in possession of alcohol offense, BP 25662, also referred to as a MIP.

Example 2:

Saul is speeding on the I5 when he gets pulled over. The officer begins to write him a ticket for speeding under VC 22350, but Saul realizes his ID was at the store he just left. He tells the officer his name is Sammi, the car-owners brother, who does not exist.

In addition to a speeding ticket, he could be charged with PC 148.9 for representing himself as a fictitious person to the police officer during a traffic stop.

Example 3:

Raymond has a warrant out for his arrest and wants to avoid being caught by authorities. He stops for gas and snacks at an am/pm convenience station. He gets nervous when he spots a police cruiser pulling in. He watches as an officer gets out and comes inside. Raymond acts normally and buys a chocolate bar and a lighter. The police officer beckons to him and asks for his name. Raymond says his name is Charlie. They nod their head and Raymond walks out as the officer proceeds to the coffee counter.

At this point, he would not be guilty of PC 148.9 for providing a false name to the police officer.  This is because the police officer gave no indication that Raymond was being detained or arrested. Not to mention, the officer simply let him go without further inquiry.

Raymond finishes getting gas and is just about to drive away when the police officers’ partner climbs out of the cruiser’s passenger side. This second officer recognizes Raymond. He walks up to Raymond’s window and knocks on it. Once the window is rolled down, he tells Raymond he is not free to leave without answering some questions. They ask him what his name is. Once again, he claims his name is Charles.

The officer used language stating Raymond was not allowed to leave without answering some questions. As soon as he provided a false name he could be charged with PC 148.9.

Example 4:

Xander was swerving and speeding down Broadway and was pulled over for VC 22350. He had been drinking but didn’t want the officer to suspect anything. When asking Xander for his name, he claimed it was Mike as he lit up a cigarette to mask the smell of alcohol on his breath.

The officer already suspected this was a case of DUI, as he caught the faint smell of beer before the cigarette was even lit and Xander had been driving somewhat erratically. He asked the driver for their driver’s license, insurance, and registration. Xander refused. He asked that Xander submit to the PAS breath test. Xander refused. The officer felt he had probable cause to take the driver into custody for failing to comply during this lawful traffic stop. He asked that Xander step out of the vehicle. Once again, Xander refused.

On top of the speeding ticket, Xander could face charges for PC 148.9, giving a false name to a police officer while they are lawfully performing their job as well as driving under the influence of alcohol under VC 23152(a). Also, because the officer was moving to arrest him and Xander refused, he could also face charges for resisting arrest under PC 148.

What The Prosecution Must Do

For the prosecution to get a successful conviction for providing false ID to a police officer, PC 148.9, they must prove certain facts are present in the case. These facts are also referred to as elements of the crime. They are as follows:

  • You knowingly and intentionally,
    • Knowingly means that you knew the information you were providing was not correct and you knew the person requesting said ID was a peace officer.
    • Intentionally means you were acting purposely.
  • Provided a fake ID or false identifying information,
    • This can be a fictitious ID or falsely presenting the identifying information of another individual as your own; OR
    • Providing false details meant to help identify you, such as the incorrect name, date of birth, address, etc.
  • To a police officer who was conducting their duties.
    • The police officer was performing their job by legally detaining or arresting you, thus needing your accurate identifying information.
    • Conducting their duties includes asking for ID during traffic stops, moments of suspected illegal activity, and hostile situations.

Example:

Winslow’s primary car needed a new alternator and could not be driven. He needed to use his old car to get to work. It was not registered with the DMV. Instead of going through the proper steps, he took the registration tags from his primary car and placed them on the license plate of his old car.

He was speeding to work when he got pulled over. Afraid the police officer would find out the registration was false, he decided to tell the officer his name was Bill.

Not only would Winslow face charges for VC 22350, speeding and VC 4463, vehicle registration fraud, but he would also have to face the offense of PC 148.9, for giving a false name to the police officer.

Legal Defense

Finding a criminal defense attorney who can help does not have to be a hassle. A legal expert can understand what legal defense would be applicable to your case. They would also be familiar with the common defenses used to fight PC 148.9.

An effective criminal defense lawyer would know what legal route to take to gain the best possible outcome for your case. The following are examples of defenses that have been used to fight charges for false representation of ID to a police officer.

Was it done under unlawful search and seizure?

Fortunately, the Fourth Amendment of the constitution states that every person is free and protected from any unreasonable search and seizure by police forces or other law enforcement agencies. Essentially, this amendment allows everyone a “reasonable expectation of privacy.”

This means, if the defendant was within their home and law enforcement illegally enters the defendant’s private domain without a warrant, any evidence found would be illegally seized, therefore inadmissible in court.

For instance:

Brandon was playing video games and smoking cannabis when police officers banged on his front door. They broke down the door before he could answer it. They entered his home without a warrant and began searching it.

They asked if he was the person they were looking for. He asked who were they looking for and did they have a warrant. None of the officers answered his questions, so he decided to tell them his name was Danny.

They found the bedroom closet was locked and broke it down, revealing over eight ounces of cannabis in it. They arrested him, claiming he was intending to illegally sell and/or distribute it. They knew his real name and tried to charge him with PC 148.9 on top of the drug charges.

In this case, not only did the officers fail to get a warrant, but they also failed to do their research on Brandon’s medical history. Brandon is a medical marijuana cardholder, which means he was legally within his rights to possess up to eight ounces of cannabis. Because Brandon was aware they were unlawfully searching his home, he would be exempt from the offense of false representation to a police officer. Fortunately, Brandon and his criminal defense attorney were able to present the facts of the case and all charges were dropped.

Were you being detained or arrested?

If you were NOT being detained or arrested and the police officer was not questioning you with regards to their official duty or legal proceedings, then the case would not fit all the criteria required under PC 148.9, false representation of ID to a police officer.

For instance:

Tyler was at the park and struck up a conversation with an on-duty police officer. During their consensual conversation, Tyler provided the false name of Zack. As they parted ways, Tyler pulled out a vape pen and began using it. Suspecting he was underage, the officer stopped him and began to question him.

Tyler would not be guilty of PC 148.9, giving a false name to a police officer. This is because he provided the false name during a casual conversation before the officer decided to detain him over the vape pen.

Did you intentionally provide a false name?

To be guilty of PC 148.9, you must willfully and purposely give false identifying information to a police officer. If you had no intention of misleading police officers, then you would not be guilty.

For instance:

Rebecca was at a frat party that was stopped by the police. When underage alcohol consumption and illicit drug use was suspected, the police officers detained the party-goers and began collecting their identification. When they asked Rebecca for her name, she gave them her nickname, Becca. When the officer checked her ID, he tried to claim she falsely identified herself.

Becca, however, did not intend to provide falsehoods to the officers who were conducting their investigation. She would not be guilty of PC 148.9, especially considering she usually identifies herself to friends and family using her nickname, Becca. She wasn’t purposely trying to hide her identity from the police.

Penalties for PC 148.09

Presenting a false ID to a police officer is a misdemeanor crime. If convicted, you face;

Up to six months in county jail, and/or

Fines of up to one thousand dollars.

Having this offense on your criminal record has long-term consequences. Because this type of offense is considered dishonesty, it could negatively impact future employment, academic goals, and professional licensing.

Penalties for Associated Offenses

California Penal Code 148, resisting arrest

Misdemeanor;

As long as one year in county jail, and/or

Up to one thousand dollars in fines.

California Penal Code 529, false impersonation

Misdemeanor;

Summary (informal) probation,

Up to one year in county jail, and/or

Fines of up to ten thousand dollars.

Felony;

Formal (felony) probation,

16 months, 2, or 3 years in county jail, and/or

Up to ten thousand dollars in fines.

California Penal Code 530.5, identity theft

Misdemeanor;

Summary (informal) probation,

Up to one year in county jail, and/or

Fines of up to one thousand dollars.

Felony;

Formal (felony) probation,

Up to three years in county jail, and/or

Fines of up to ten thousand dollars.

California Business and Professions Code 25662, minor in possession of alcohol in a public place

Infraction;

Up to two hundred fifty dollars in fines, and/or

Twenty-four to thirty-two hours of community service.

Misdemeanor (for subsequent offense);

Fines of up to five hundred dollars, and/or

Thirty-six to forty-eight hours of community service.

California Vehicle Code 4463, vehicle registration fraud

Misdemeanor;

Informal (misdemeanor) probation,

Up to one year in the county jail, and/or

Fines of up to one thousand dollars.

Felony;

Formal (felony) probation,

16 months, 2, or 3 years in county jail, and/or

As much as ten thousand dollars in fines.

California Vehicle Code 31, giving false statements/information to a police officer

Misdemeanor;

Up to six months in county jail, and/or

Fines of up to one thousand dollars.

Who Can Help

Do not let these charges intimidate you out of finding top-notch legal representation. Are you located in the greater San Diego area, Orange County, or Los Angeles and you or someone you know are facing a PC 148.9 offense? If that is the case or if you are facing any of the related offenses reviewed above, contact the Law Office of Anna R. Yum for help.

As a former prosecutor and award-winning criminal defense lawyer, Attorney Yum understands what the prosecution must to do to get a conviction. Don’t put off getting the legal advice and help that you need. Call us today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation at 619-233-4433 or use our online contact form.

If, after reading this article, you would like more information on this law or any other statutes, don’t hesitate to contact our office for help.

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