Making, buying or owning a novelty driving licence is not a criminal offence and yet making, buying or owning a fake driving licence most certainly is. Unfortunately, unscrupulous organisations are trying to persuade people that it is perfectly legal to buy and use a fake driving licence because, they claim, “it is only a novelty”.
If you add to the mix the public perception that the only people who commit criminal offences are those who “make” the licences, the situation becomes quite confusing, so let’s separate myth from reality.
What’s the difference between novelty driving licences and fake driving licences?
A fake driving licence is one that is designed to look like the real thing – it’s also referred to as a “direct counterfeit licence.” So, the licence will generally be the same size, have the same layout, the same font and wording, and use the same colours as a real driving licence issued by the government once someone passes a driving test.
A novelty driving licence is one that is clearly not trying to “impersonate” a real licence. The colours, text, working, or size of a novelty driving licence will differ wildly from any real licence that already exists. They are generally designed for silly games – completing a fancy dress costume, or as a film replica.
The main consideration to make generally comes down to whether someone could think that your fake or novelty licence is a real one. So, if you have a driving licence that looks like the real thing and has your photo on it, it is a fake driving licence, whereas a licence that is valid only in “Tomorrow’s World Disneyland” that has the holder shown as Mickey Mouse (with an accompanying photo of the star himself) will be a novelty item. You might get sued into the ground by the Walt Disney corporation for copyright infringement, but nobody in their right mind would accuse you of fraud.
What will happen if you have a “novelty” driving licence?
Buying and owning a true novelty driving licence carries very little to no consequences. After all, who wants to police fun?
What will happen if you have a “fake” driving licence?
Despite what some websites might tell you, owning a direct counterfeit, or fake ID, means you are committing a criminal offence. For example, it is a criminal offence to be in possession of a false identity document intending to:
- Use it to establish personal information about yourself
- Allow or induce anybody else to use that personal information to establish, ascertain or verify personal information either about yourself or about someone else.
It is also a criminal offence to possess any article – such as a fake driving licence – for use in the course of or connection to any fraud. This includes “just holding it” for someone else!
Using fake ID cards to “pretend” you are someone else is actually fraud. If, for example, you do this in order to:
- Obtain credit
- Test drive a car
- Travel across certain country borders
Then the situation gets a lot worse – up to 10 years in prison and/or a fine worse.
Apart from the criminal aspect of having a false driving licence there are other issues too. If you drive using the licence you are:
- Probably unqualified and, by default, not fit to drive
- Uninsured, as even if you have insurance it will be void
- If you have an accident, facing a claim for money to cover any injury or damage you have caused
The police could give you a fixed penalty of £300 if you’re caught driving a vehicle you’re not insured to drive. If the case goes to court, however, you could get an unlimited fine and disqualified from driving. As in, saddled with debt you’ll probably never repay, and you’ll never drive legally, ever. The police also have the power to seize, and in some cases, destroy the vehicle that’s being driven uninsured.
Driving without a valid driving licence isn’t just a minor infraction. Driving without a licence is a serious offence with significant potential penalties. Perhaps the main reason for this is the danger that unlicensed drivers pose to other road users, passengers and pedestrians. The penalty – for the basic offence – is 3 to 6 penalty points, a fine of up to £1,000, and possible disqualification.
Do also remember that, despite any assurances about privacy, any websites who sell you fake driving licences have all of your details on file, and can be forced, by law, to provide your details to the Court and police to make you face the consequences.