Question: I was caught in New York with a chalked driver's license, and was written a ticket for it. It is a violation of the 509-6 code. I don't know anything about this, because I have never really been in trouble with the police. Is this just a violation, or is it a crime? Will it go onto my record, in the sense that I should mention it on a job application? If it does go on my record, will it be there permanently?
Answer: Chalking an ID card such as a driver's license is popular in some areas, especially New York State from what we have read. Chalking typically refers to using colored pencils to alter the birth date on the ID card. This is typically done to appear older to get into a club, bar, buy alcohol, etc.
In some states, chalking an ID is a misdemeanor and in others, it is a felony because it is tampering with an official state document. In New York, chalking or altering your license can be worse than being found with a fake ID depending upon under what New York law what the police cite you for.
If you were written up under Section 509.6 of the New York Vehicle and Traffic (VAT) Law then you may be getting away with the easiest of penalties from our research. This section of the VAT states:
No licensee shall voluntarily permit any other person to use his license, nor shall any person at any time possess or use any forged, fictitious or illegally obtained license, or use any license belonging to another person.
Subsection 11 gives the penalties for violating this section of NYS law. Here it notes that a violation of any provision of this section shall be punishable by a fine of not less than seventy-five nor more than three hundred dollars, or by imprisonment for not more than fifteen days, or by both such fine and imprisonment. So a fine of between $75 and $300 can be handed to you by the court as well as up to 15 days in jail.
Since there is a possibility of jail time, this means that this offense is at least a misdemeanor and is considered a criminal offense, not just an infraction. Thus, if convicted, it would result in a criminal record that employers and others could see.
Other areas of New York law that you could have been written up under for altering your driver's license include Number 65-b of the state's Alcohol Beverage Control Law; if you are caught trying to buy alcohol under the age of 21. This area of NYS law stipulates that consequences for underage purchase of alcohol can include a $100 fine and community service of 30 hours. Some counties in New York will require you attend something like a STOP DWI Project Responsibility Course as a condition for any plea agreement to lower or reduce your charge for this offense.
If you were cited under New York laws for forgery or criminal impersonation, the penalties would be much more severe and the offense considered a felony. For example, it is a felony punishable by up to seven years in jail to falsely make, alter or knowingly possess a document issued by a public or government agency for the purpose of deceiving someone.
Penal Law 170.20 can also be used in some situations by law enforcement. This law concerns criminal possession of a forged instrument in the third degree. A person can be found guilty of criminal possession of a forged instrument in the third degree when, with knowledge that it is forged and with intent to defraud, deceive or injure another, he utters or possesses a forged instrument. Criminal possession of a forged instrument in the third degree is a Class A misdemeanor.
A Class A misdemeanor can give you up to 1 year in jail and a Class B misdemeanor is up to 90 days in jail. Misdemeanors that are defined outside of the Penal Law of New York, such as those in the NYS VAT, are referred to as unclassified misdemeanors. Even though misdemeanors are less serious than felonies they are still crimes and can carry long lasting consequences for you - including a permanent criminal record.
If you wish to try and plea down the offense so that you will not have a misdemeanor on your record, you can speak to the court to see if this is normally something they do or if you will need to get a lawyer to help you try and accomplish this. A legal expert could tell you much more about your possible penalties and ways to try and keep your record clean or, if you are convicted, if you could get this violation expunged from your record at some point in the future.