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“…But my friend told me that…”

Nothing drives us, or any lawyer for that matter, crazier than someone telling us we are wrong because of what a friend, acquaintance, or some dude on a bar stool told them about their case or about the law. No, your friend doesn’t know. They don’t know the law. They don’t know the facts. They don’t know the court. They don’t know your driving history. They don’t know, in plain English, diddly squat about anything. 

My latest foray into the “…but my friend told me…” rabbit hole was the other day, when I had consulted someone about a VTL Section 509(6)(P) charge. For the unanointed, NYS VTL Sec. 509(6)(P) prohibits altering or falsifying the content of a driver’s license, or creating a facsimile driver’s license. In other words, it prohibits making a false ID be it by altering a real license or creating a phony one. If convicted, the penalties are severe. Upon a conviction, the motorist’s real NYS driver’s license is suspended, and if the person does not have a NYS driver’s license then the NYS driving privileges are suspended.

As is typical, a motorist called me who was underage and caught with a fake ID trying to get into a bar. We defend dozens of these a year. We know EXACTLY what the law is and how to handle the case. He was fixated on the fact that the license did not bear his name, but the name of a friend:

‘but, it didn’t have my name on it…’

‘but it didn’t have my name on it…’

‘but it didn’t have my name on it…’

I explained to him, over and over and over, that it does not matter. That statutes have “elements.” That there are “elements” to the charge of VTL Sec. 509(6)(P), which are in sum:

  • The defendant possessed an altered of forged NYS driver’s license, or an an altered of forged driver’s license from another state.

That’s it. That’s all it takes. One does not have to show it or present it or try to use it for anything. Nor does it have to be in your name. All one has to do is be in possession of it. Which, he was. I also explained over and over that there were other defenses available. One being whether the search and seizure was valid. Another being whether or not they could properly do discover or disclosure. I also presented him other ways we could go about having the ticket dismissed through the plea bargain process.

I though he had gotten it, until about 10 minutes after I got off the phone with him he called me back and said ‘my friend Bob has a friend who is a cop named Jason, and we spoke to Jason and he said that they can’t write the ticket because my name was not on it.’

Is that how it’s really done? Do you really want us practicing law and representing you on your case based on what your friend Bob’s friend, Jason the cop, told you in a 10 second phone call? Is this what the practice of law has come to – asserting the defense of what some anonymous cop named Jason thinks we should do? So then of course I told him “okay, so you don’t even need me. Tell Jason to draft you up a noticed motion to dismiss and you can serve and file it and get the case dismissed.” Of course “…um…huh…what…” was the response.

Never ever, under pain of death, credit with your know nothing friends and friends of friends tell you about the law. And ESPECIALLY do not take legal advice from a cop. I have a whole article about that on Linkenin here.

Whenever you need a lawyer, be it for a traffic ticket or some other practice area, the ONLY PERSON you should be taking legal advice from is YOUR LAWYER. This is the lawyer YOU HIRED. Not your divorced friend you are commiserating with over your divorce. Not your cousin who is a lawyer but practices mergers and acquisitions but you want to go through your proposed estate plan ad nauseum since “he’s a lawyer.” No. Never do this.

Look, you hired a lawyer to handle your case. By definition that makes him or her the only competent lawyer IN THE WORLD to handle your case. Further, if you so distrust the lawyer you are going to retain or have retained that you need to chew everyone’s ear off about what to do despite the fact that your lawyer has already told you what to do, you need to change lawyers.

As a client, your job is to pick the right lawyer and then trust your judgment and instincts and trust your lawyer. If you have reservations about the case or your lawyer the only thing to do is get a copy of the file, bring it to another lawyer in the same practice area, let him review the file, and he can give you a learned second legal opinion. Of course, this will cost you money. But it’s the only way if you truly need to run something by another person to get a valid, accurate answer.

Have you been charged with VTL 509(6)(P). If so contact our office here. We have a 24 / 7 answering service and are fully qualified and capable to handle your fake ID case