Your Maryland Driver's License Could be Confiscated for not Being Real ID Compliant. A New General Assembly Bill Could Change That.

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Maryland Real ID: Are You Compliant?

What is Real ID anyway? And will you get any leeway in noncompliance? New Maryland General Assembly bills say you should.

After the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, the Federal government worked to heighten the security of the nation. One of their efforts revolved around IDs: with 50 states in the union, plus a handful of territories, there were a plethora of various state-issued IDs floating around. The newly created Department of Homeland Security (DHS) wanted a set of unified standards for IDs across the Union, and so, in May 2005, Congress passed the Real ID Act, as a part of a much larger bill that also encompassed other parts of national security.

15 years later, and most states have filed for extension after extension of their deadlines, Maryland included. Right now, about 1.8 million Marylanders are not yet Real ID compliant (including those with IDs that look like the new ones, but who haven’t submitted all the proper paperwork. However, overall, the state is doing excellently, with 61% compliance, far above the national average of only 27% compliance, even 15 years and counting after the passage of the Act. According to The Daily Times, the president of a DC-based ID security nonprofit said Maryland’s roll-out of the Real ID program was “one of the top five in the country.”

So, what is Real ID? How is it different from past IDs? And what do you do if you’re not compliant? How do you tell? And what happens if you get pulled over while using a noncompliant ID? We’re here to answer these questions and clear up this confusion.

What is Real ID?

To unify the security of federal agencies and commercial air travel, the Real ID Act is meant to require strict security requirements on the state-issued IDs of all 50 states in the union. The main difference between the Real ID Act and previous laws is the “minimum issuance standards,” i.e. the minimum amount of documentation and verification the state must obtain from someone before issuing them a Real ID. The bill states the requirements as follows:

  1. A photo identity document, except that a non-photo identity document is acceptable, if it includes both the person’s full legal name and date of birth.
  2. Documentation showing the person’s date of birth.
  3. Proof of the person’s social security account number or verification that the person is not eligible for a social security account number.
  4. Documentation showing the person’s name and address of principle residence.

Additionally, required is also evidence of “lawful status,” whether that be:

  • U.S. citizenship
  • Permanent residency, either conditional or unconditional
  • Asylum application, whether pending or approved
  • Pending or approved application for temporary protected status
  • Approved deferred action status
  • A valid unexpired nonimmigrant visa

Temporary Real IDs are also available, for those who are here only temporarily, and the Real ID in this instance must prominently display its temporary status and expiration date. These can be valid for no more than one year.

Other than the usual ID requirements (such as full legal name, date of birth, gender, license or ID card number, digital photograph, address of principle residence, and a person’s signature), the Act also requires physical security features “designed to prevent tampering, counterfeiting, or duplication of the document for fraudulent purposes.” In other words, unified security standards across state IDs. And lastly, a “common machine-readable technology, with defined minimum data elements.” The Real ID Act repealed §7212 of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 (passed only four months earlier, in Dec. 2004), which included much of the same requirements, but lacked the minimum issuance standards.

One final important thing of note regarding the Real ID Act is that it requires that states must share their driver’s license databases with the other states in the Union, raising privacy concerns.

How do I know if I’m Real ID compliant or not?

You can check if you’re Real ID compliant by checking your Real ID status using the MVA’s lookup tool at

You can also tell just by looking at it. If your ID is horizontal and is backdropped by the Maryland flag, you’re likely compliant – but if you still have an old Maryland ID, one with the vertical red / horizontal blue minor/adult color scheme with crabs on its design, you’re not compliant.

So what happens if I’m not compliant?

The true deadline is October 1st, but currently your non-compliant driver’s license can be confiscated by state police if you end up in a traffic stop. A new bill in the Maryland General Assembly (House Bill 28 and Senate Bill 173, filed earlier in January) would, however, make it so that you have 90 days to file the appropriate paperwork, making it so that if you get stopped again after having your ID confiscated within a 90-day window, you won’t be reprimanded for driving without a license.