Photocopying government ID is illegal

Have you ever been asked by a business if they could photocopy your government identification card for security or financial reasons?

The answer is likely yes for those who have stayed at certain hotels or rented a car or apartment. What many in the military community don’t always remember is that photocopying such documents, with only a few exceptions, is against the law.

Title 18 of U.S. Code Part I, Chapter 33, Section 701, reads: “Whoever manufactures, sells or possesses any badge, identification card or other insignia of the design prescribed by the head of any department or agency of the United States for use by any officer or employee thereof, or any colorable imitation thereof, or photographs, prints, or in any other manner makes or executes any engraving, photograph, print or impression in the likeness of any such badge, identification card or other insignia, or any colorable imitation thereof, except as authorized under regulations made pursuant to law, shall be fined under this title, imprisoned (for up to six months), or both.”

Commercial establishments can ask to see your government ID card to verify military affiliation or authorize discounted rates for services, but they can’t photocopy it. So, if they ask to do so, tell them no. Give them a state driver’s license or other form of photo identification instead.

Photocopied cards might be used for counterfeiting purposes, with no real safeguards against it. Since criminals and terrorists value government IDs when they’re trying to plan acts against the U.S. military, it’s best to not give them that chance.

This law does NOT apply to medical establishments like hospitals and doctor’s offices, which are allowed to make a copy for filing insurance claims. It also doesn’t apply to other government agencies that are using the copied ID to perform official business functions.

When in doubt, it’s wise to contact a legal advisor. The phone number for the legal assistance office at Fort Lee is 804-765-1500. The Client Services Division is located in building 8135, 27th Street.