Officials: New driver’s licenses will be more secure, harder to copy

The new Minnesota driver’s licenses will be available beginning Monday.

Branden Peterson

Gov. Tim Pawlenty, state officials and technology experts showed off the look of new driver’s licenses Wednesday, claiming the cards will be more secure and harder to duplicate.

“It’s going to be as secure as any driver’s license in the country,” Pawlenty said.

Starting Monday, Minnesotans who renew their licenses or purchase them for the first time will receive the new cards. Officials said new security elements in the cards will be important to public safety and homeland security efforts.

“The new driver’s license that we’re unveiling today is virtually immune to being counterfeited,” Pawlenty said.

One new feature is a row of loons that float above or sink below the surface of the card as it is tilted. Also new is an invisible digital watermark and images only detectable by ultraviolet light.

Minnesota last changed its driver’s license design in 1999. Officials and local businesses said the cards were initially tougher to duplicate, but the ability to copy them advanced with technology.

Pawlenty said improved technology in the cards will help stop people who use fake IDs to drink under age.

“As the Jimmy Buffet song said, drinking on a fake ID is coming to an end in Minnesota,” Pawlenty said.

Local business managers said technological advances have helped people learn to better duplicate Minnesota licenses.

At Dinkytown Wine & Spirits, fake IDs fill “boxes and boxes,” and the store collected as many as 20 IDs last week, manager Dan Erickson said.

Cashiers can look at specific elements of current cards and verify personal information by scanning a bar code.

But Erickson said, “The IDs are getting harder and harder to detect.”

Tom Nesheim, an assistant general manager at Sally’s Saloon and Eatery, said all of the business’ staff members have been trained to analyze ID cards to see if people are old enough to drink alcohol.

Minnesota driver’s licenses have at least 10 to 15 aspects that can be analyzed for authenticity, he said.

“A lot of times, it’s going to be font or color (in the cards),” Nesheim said. “It’s not that tough to spot.”

Now that state ID cards will have a new look, state Department of Public Safety spokesman Kevin Smith said, the state will send fliers

and other informative material to businesses in the near future.

The department said Minnesota issues approximately 1.6 million driver’s licenses and other identification documents annually.

It costs $8 to duplicate a driver’s license and $18.50 to buy a first license or renew an expired one. All licenses with the old appearance will remain valid until they expire.

A person caught illegally duplicating government-issued ID cards is subject to as many as five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.