Fake COVID vaccine cards – is presenting one illegal?
A few weeks ago we posted an article on our social media regarding a fake vaccine card. A woman trying to enter Hawaii created a fake document that appeared to be a vaccination card for the “Maderna” vaccination. (Yep, she couldn’t even spell it right.). She faces a misdemeanor charge called falsifying vaccination documents. The charge carries a $5,000.00 fine, a year in jail, or both.
Hawaii is obviously an island, which encouraged legislators to craft laws to protect the state from COVID-19. Wisconsin doesn’t have a similar law, and certainly didn’t face a similar COVID situation as Hawaii. But acting in this manner must be a crime, right? It sure is. Federal law expressly prohibits these actions. State law requires a bit more creativity.
Whether or not it’s a crime, a fake vaccine card is problematic for various reasons. If you face any kind of state criminal charge, contact Meyer Van Severen, S.C. immediately. We’re a top criminal defense law firm employing some of the best criminal defense attorneys in Wisconsin. Contact us at (414) 270-0202 and let’s talk about your charges.
Potential state charge: forgery
Firstly, state prosecutors could start off with forgery charges. Forgery is a Class A misdemeanor, meaning the maximum penalty is 9 months jail, $10,000.00 in fines, or both. A Class A misdemeanor is only a misdemeanor, but it’s the most serious one. 9 months in jail is certainly a long time, and that result becomes more likely during a global pandemic.
Section 943.38(3) of the Wisconsin Statutes prohibits forgery. The statute indicates:
(3) Whoever, with intent to defraud, does any of the following is guilty of a Class A misdemeanor:(a)….(b) Falsely makes or alters any writing of a kind commonly relied upon for the purpose of identification or recommendation; …
- Firstly, the defendant acted with an intent to defraud; and
- Secondly, the defendant falsely makes or alters any writing; and
- Thirdly, the writing is of the kind commonly relied upon for the purpose of identification or recommendation.
How does forgery apply to this situation?
Let’s start with an example: Defendant creates a fake vaccine card. He even spells Moderna correctly. And then the defendant presents that fake vaccine card as he is entering Summerfest in downtown Milwaukee. Importantly, Summerfest 2021 required visitors to provide proof of recent negative COVID test or submit a vaccine card.
The first element is simple. The defendant’s entire purpose in creating the card was to defraud. He recognized that without the card he’d have to submit to a COVID test. To avoid that requirement he created the card. This certainly is the defendant acting with intent to defraud.
The vaccine card is fake. The defendant created it. This also satisfies the second element.
Finally, is the vaccine card the kind of a writing that is commonly relied upon for the purpose of identification or recommendation? Yes. The recommendation here is for a COVID test. Alternatively, it’s for the purpose of identifying an individual without COVID (assuming the vaccine works, you’re not getting in with a positive COVID test).
Federal charges for fake vaccine card?
Interestingly, this charge is also punishable under federal law. And the penalties are certainly more severe. But the focus isn’t on the vaccine card itself, but the official government agency seal of the CDC on the card. This is a crime and may be punishable under federal law under Title 18 United States Code, Section 1017, and other applicable laws.
The federal charges you’ll face for a fake vaccine card are a whole lot more serious than the misdemeanor state charges. Rather than 9 months jail, a federal defendant in this situation faces a maximum penalty of 5 years in prison, a fine, or both. 5 years prison is certainly a whole lot more serious than 9 months jail. And a felony conviction carries with it lifetime collateral consequences that will change your life.
Contact a top Wisconsin criminal defense law firm
Meyer Van Severen, S.C. is composed of some of the best criminal defense attorneys in Wisconsin. We pride ourselves on our reputations as aggressive, staunch advocates for all of our clients. While creating a fake vaccine card and being charged during a global pandemic can be extremely embarrassing, our goal is to get you through this. Your one mistake shouldn’t be held against you forever, no matter what the media, your friends, and even your family might say.
There are various ways to beat a criminal case, and we’ll examine all of those potential options. Some may apply to your case, others may not.
Contact us 24/7 at (414) 270-0202. We’ll connect you with one of our top criminal defense attorneys and we’ll figure out a plan to begin fighting your case. Don’t talk to the media. Don’t post on AVVO for free (sometimes bad) advice. Take this seriously.