How to Check a Picture Identification Card

By: , November 14, 2012 | Legal Articles

How to check a performers id properly. A primer from J.D. Obenberger on how to properly examine an ID for validity.

By J. D. Obenberger, Attorney at Law

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© MMXII J. D. Obenberger, All Rights Reserved

    OK, the performer is standing in front of you for all the niceties to be conducted before his or her best and most enthusiastic services are to be rendered. In other articles, I've covered the forms of identification required by federal law, and elsewhere, I've covered the methodology you should employ to control a shoot with greatest protection to you and your legal interests. The requirements of legibility and recent and recognizable images in the picture identification document are covered in the Regulations at Section 75.2 (a) (1).

    The ID is tendered to you. How should you check it for validity?     


    First, your tools. You will need a 45x illuminated eye loupe that includes Ultraviolet LED's. You can obtain one for $6.50 or thereabouts from American Science and Surplus in Chicago. They call it a "microscopic microscope" and the catalog description underemphasizes its UV capabilities. You will use it to verify the UV luminance of special seals, lines, and other security devices, unique to each state. Holograms are visible in white light to the naked eye when the card is rotated on its horizontal axis near a light source. UV markings, present in the identification cards of most states, in contrast, are visible to the naked eye only with a UV light source. Some picture identification cards (and curency) use microprinting for another level of establishing authenticity, roughly 16 states do so in driver's licenses and state identification cards. What I'm reading online suggests that both holograms and UV have been successfully accomplished by the makers of good fake ID, but that none of them have been able to match the microprinting of authentic documents. Ergo, 45 power will do a good job. (American Science has another model with a heavy metal casing, but with a UV light not as  powerful, at about the same price, though not listed in its catalog. Give them a call if you are interested.)   

   In order to use your loupe effectively, you will need to know what you are looking for. That information will come from two sources. A handy reference for you will be the I.D. Checking Guide (It comes in two editions, the US and Canada Edition and the International Edition, published annually during the first week in February each year by the Driver's License Guide Company of Redwood City, California. The books are copiously illustrated with facsimiies of driver's licenses, state, provincial, territorial, consular  federal ID and US passport visas, with abundant notes about security features pertaining to each, and specially dealing with documents for minors and probationary drivers. Updates are available through their website to registered purchasers. The US edition's list price is $23.95 plus $5 for shipping. You may be required to establish a basis for acquiring one. They will tell you outright, "Available to appropriate businesses, government agencies, and sworn law enforcement personnel." Tell them the truth. They sell them to adult entertainment companies regularly now, and I believe I can take some credit for talking them into that.

This 96-page pamphlet is a very high-quality work, but it is not all-inclusive. In order to learn the special soundex codes by which some states encode identity into DL/State ID documents, older and sometimes alternative forms of ID, and other sometimes-critical details, one needs to examine the US Identification Manual, a seven-hudred page three ring binder book, acquired from the same company, costing $210.00, and updated quarterly as IDs change. It probably is prohibitively expensive for smaller and medium companies. We maintain a copy in our offices and sometimes our regular cients call for help with troublesome forms of US ID; that is a service we typically provide without cost to annually retaining clients. 

    Recent editions of the I.D. Checking Guide have a special section illustrating or describing the UV features on cards issued by states which use them.

    Such cards also sometimes have machine-readable magnetic strips and/or barcodes or QR codes. The magnetic readers which connect via USB to your computer are priced in the $100 - $200 range on eBag; a free app for your Android or IPhone can scan the others, but don't expect more than verification of the ID number without an ability to decrypt whatever else may be stored in the QR code. 

Verifying With the Issuing Authority

    Most states' DMVs will assisst callers in verifying the authenticity of a suspected identity document. The hard part is getting a phone number and then steering through the voice menus to get to the right person. You may be asked to provide information from the purported identity document.

Backup ID

     One and only one unexpired picture identification card of the character described in the Regulations must be inspected and copied, and from it, the identity information in your compliance scheme must be extracted and entered. No other documents but those mandated by law may be filed in your records; though I doubt anyone is likely to get indicted for including more than one identity document, to be technical, anything that is not of the character required by the regulations should be stored outside your records system, perhaps in an "administrative file" about the performer along with cash receipts and the like. The additional, unauthorized IDs, stored inside your record keepin system, are a violation of Section 2257.

    It makes abundant sense to require a second backup form of identification because underage persons carrying fake ID seldom carry more than one ID card substantiating the fake identity. School IDs, Clark County, Nevada Sheriff's cards issued to strippers, and many others may have a photograph - but even a debit card or credit card with a matching name and signature are better than relying on only one form of ID. Here, even an expired learner's permit, issued when the performer was a minor, may be of good use. 

    One major adult production studio has been noted, in news articles, to have accepted a Social Security account printout as a backup form of ID. The performer turned out to be fifteen years old, though the ID she possessed with authentic; she had obtained it through the use of an adult's birth certificate, and no ID checking will ever protect you from that; Thorough inspection and record keeping will be of immessurable help should you ever be investigated concerning an alleged underage performer, at least for federal issues involving Section 2257 and in the large majority of states which require guilty knowlege to make out a sexual offense involving a minor. Not every state allows an affirmative defense of a reasonable, but mistaken belief, that the performer was an adult. Florida and Utah are among those which disallow such a defense. I suspect, however, that abundant and zealous Section 2257 compliance executed with a sincere desire to exclude minors, will be of some help to the photographer in the way the investigation is disposed of in every jurisdiction.  A violation of Section 2257 carries with it the potential in prison; far worse is the penalty provided for the creation of child pornography (and transporting and trafficking minors), federal and state, and the state laws concerning sex with minors and sexual exploitation.

How to Check an ID for Alteration or Counterfeiting

1. Basic stuff. Check that the picture identification care is current and unexpired. If not, send the performer packing.  Look to see whether the picture actually depicts the person standing in front of you. Compare height and weight given on the document with that person. Ask the performer to recite the name, date of birth, and address given on the card. Ask for a backup form of ID.

2. Check for frayed or uneven corners and margins and for signs of cutting. Examine whether the geometry of the card is laminated irregularly.  Check for glue, especially around the photograph. Feel it for bumps or irregularities and examine it visually for signs of glue. In some states, the date of birth, sex, and name are coded into the driver's license and state ID number. Check to see whether they and other features show a consistency or an irregularity.  Check whether any embossing or raised data are consistent with the textual data? Knowing what the holograms and UV markings are supposed to look like from one of the manuals, check to see whether part of any of them are missing.  A light source behind the card may highlight any signs of cutting. 

3. Again, using your manual, verify that the form of the card matches the lawful and authentic format used by the issuing authority. Look at the quality of printing and manufacture.  Some states - and federal documents - show a "rainbow" printing that gradually changes color - and this is one of the more difficult things to counterfeit. Check for the fineness of lines with your loupe.  Inspect the reverse! Look for bad printing, smudges, etc. that reflect amateuriish attempts. (You should take and retain one image of the reverse, too!)

4. With a loupe, a magnifying glass of 10x or more (the higher, the better up to about 50x if it is illuminated), or a microscope, check for the microprinting indicated in your manual, usually contained in borders, lines, and sometimes in the design of the in  the background of the card. With your UV light source, look for UV-printed symbols, shapes and lines as set out in your manual, and in some states, UV-repeated names, date of birth, and other personally-identifying information. Illuminate the reverse of the the card to check for the presence of opacity marks.

If you can do so consistently, you can advantageously use a form for each performer, a checklist, that details the examination that you conducted - verifying the microprinting and what it said, the UV features, the holograms, the magnetic and/or barcode or QR information, the authenticity of the form in which the card appears, and the results of attempt to verify its legitimacy, and all of this will establlish your serious intent to prevent the predation of minors, something that never, never hurts, and which may protect you immeasurably. But don't do this inconsistently, because a regular pattern of doing so, and its omission in the case under actual investigation, will suggest to an investigator the contrary, a criminal intent from the outset or the obstruction of justice by destroying evidence late. Better not to employ such forms unless you use them every time without exception.

Did I forget to mention that, while your UV light is out, you can check for the presence of semen?


This article is written to generally inform the public and does not provide legal advice nor does it establish an attorney-client relationship. If you have a legal issue or question, contact a lawyer. If you are arrested, make no statement and contact a lawyer immediately.

Joe Obenberger is a Chicago Loop lawyer concentrating in the law of free expression and liberty under the United States Constitution, and his firm has represented many owners, employees, and customers of adult-oriented businesses, both online and in the real world. He can be reached in the office at 312 558-6420. His e-mail address is

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