Customers stand in line at the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration. (Andrea Bruce/TWP)

The Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration has recalled the driver’s licenses of 8,000 residents because they failed to meet requirements to be in compliance with the Real ID Act — a federal law designed to tighten security for state-issued identification.

That means if any of those drivers are pulled over by police for any reason, the officer could confiscate their driver’s license.

If you are one of the 8,000, the MVA says you can avoid having your license confiscated by presenting the required paperwork — proof of age and identity, your Social Security number and Maryland residency — to an MVA branch.

Those required to file documents received their licenses starting in 2016, when the MVA began issuing Real ID licenses and identification cards under a process that at the time was approved by the federal government. But in late 2017, the Department of Homeland Security notified the state that all drivers who had the new Real ID would also need to have scanned copies of the documents that prove their identity and U.S. residency on file at the MVA.

Another 780,000 Maryland drivers with the state-issued Real ID license — identified by a star in the upper-right corner — also don’t have the necessary documentation on file, according to the MVA. That number is down from about 1 million earlier this year. To avoid a crush at MVA offices, the state divided drivers into groups and gave them staggered deadlines. The first group was due to file documents this summer.

The 8,000 whose licenses have been recalled are among the first group who were required to present additional documentation; they had a June deadline, which then was extended to July 3. The state said they failed to respond, despite having received multiple warnings since December.

“These customers received more than six notices, and if they had previously provided a phone number they also received a personal phone call as the compliance deadline approached,” MVA spokeswoman Adrienne Diaczok said. She said the MVA is sending yet another electronic reminder to the group about their recall status, urging them to visit a branch office as soon as possible to present documents.

So far, three of those drivers have had their licenses confiscated by law enforcement, Diaczok said. All three have submitted their documents and have their licenses back, she said.


A sample Maryland driver’s license. The star in the upper-right corner signals that it is a Real ID license. (Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration)

In June, the MVA started mailing notices to a second group of drivers — about 150,000 — who have until November to get their documents on file.

“We’ve made great strides in getting customers to our offices to satisfy the federal REAL ID requirements,” Diaczok said, noting that they are seeing an increase in appointments at the MVA.

Some Maryland leaders have expressed concern about police confiscating driver’s licenses. Del. Eric Ebersole (D-Howard) last week sent a letter to MVA Administrator Christine Nizer saying the practice would create problems, because it’s illegal to drive without a license. He pledged to introduce emergency legislation that would require police, after confiscating a driver’s license, to leave the driver with a document that would function as a temporary license.

“I’m concerned about this potential unfairness to drivers,” Ebersole wrote in the Aug. 8 letter. Ebersole said the soonest his legislation could take effect is next year and asked Nizer to make policy changes to address the problem sooner.

The new license was designed to comply with the Real ID Act, a law passed after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to tighten security for state-issued driver’s licenses and identification. It aims to prevent identity fraud and sets minimum standards for state-issued driver’s licenses and IDs. Applicants are required to provide proof of identity and legal U.S. residency to obtain the new ID.

Beginning in fall 2020, the only driver’s licenses that will be accepted for purposes such as boarding commercial flights will be those that meet federal Real ID requirements. Enforcement at federal buildings and military bases began in 2014. Those without a Real ID license will be able to provide another acceptable form of identification such as a valid U.S. passport.

The MVA website has a lookup tool that people can use to check whether their file is missing documents. It also provides a checklist of documents needed and facilitates making an appointment at the MVA.

A U.S. birth certificate or valid U.S. passport can be used as proof of identity. You can provide your original Social Security card or a W-2 or SSA-1099 to prove a Social Security number; and proof of residency can be shown with documents such as a bank statement, insurance card, vehicle registration, utility bill or mail from a federal, state or local government agency.

According to the state, more than half of Marylanders are REAL ID compliant. MVA officials said more notices will go out this summer and fall as the state scrambles to get everyone holding a Real ID in compliance before the hard national deadline of Oct. 1, 2020.

The Department of Homeland Security last week recertified Maryland’s REAL ID program, validating the state’s procedures as in compliance with the federal law.