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Misusing passports is a grave federal crime

On Behalf of | Nov 23, 2023 | Federal Offenses

Although the U.S. doesn’t have a national identification system for its citizens, the passports issued by the federal government can serve a similar purpose. These travel documents certify the owner’s identity and allow them to enter and exit the country.

U.S. passports can also serve as unique identifiers for registered sex offenders to warn other countries that the individuals have committed an offense. Per federal rules, a person convicted of a sex crime must use a passport bearing a message that the owner is a covered sex offender under U.S. law.

It’s a federal crime to attempt to use another person’s passport, whether to evade detection or to avoid unique identifiers such as the covered sex offender endorsement. Violations can lead to decades of prison time.

Passport misuse defined

According to federal law, a person commits the offense of misusing a passport through the following actions:

  • Willfully uses or attempts to use any passport issued to another person
  • Knowingly uses or attempts to use any passport in violation of the federal government’s conditions and restrictions of its use (such as a sex offender using an old passport without a covered sex offender endorsement)
  • Intentionally furnishes, disposes of or delivers a passport to a person who isn’t the individual the passport was designed for

Misusing a passport is a fraud crime and anyone who commits the above violations – or helps another commit them – will face harsh penalties.

The penalties for passport misuse

On top of the fines a court may order an offender to pay, a convicted person also faces imprisonment. The length of the sentence depends on whether the offense was committed to facilitate further criminal activity:

  • Offense was committed to facilitate an act of international terrorism: Up to 25 years of imprisonment
  • Offense was committed to facilitate a drug trafficking crime: Up to 20 years of imprisonment
  • Offense was committed to facilitate other crimes: Up to 15 years of imprisonment
  • Offense wasn’t committed for another crime: Up to 10 years of imprisonment

Passports aren’t just travel documents; they’re some of the most important identification documents any U.S. citizen can own. International crimes often involve fake and stolen passports, so the federal government takes passport fraud seriously to address the problem.

If you face a similar charge, it would be best to seek legal counsel at once. A legal professional can help protect your rights in court and guide you through the court procedure.