On April 18, 2019, Governor Larry Hogan approved House Bill 180, authorizing the Motor Vehicle Administration to issue electronic credentials in addition to a license or an identification card. An electronic credential is an electronic representation of a license, an identification card, or a data field. The electronic credential would be a second form of a license or identification but will not replace the traditional, hard copy, license or identification card.
To access the digital identification, Maryland residents do not need to go to the Motor Vehicle Administration, they just download the “Motor Driver’s License” app available on smartphones. Through the app, residents can then provide a digital version of their identification. Residents will then be put into three categories of identification: “Under 18”, “Over 18/Under 21” or “Over 21”. Additionally, the app will only show the information that is necessary for the person requesting to see someone’s identification. For example, a retailer will only be shown a person’s name, photograph and the category of identification the person falls under; while law enforcement will have access to the more private information that is shown on normal licenses, such as an address and date of birth. The app will use Quick Response codes, or QR codes, in which a person requesting the information can use a smartphone to quickly scan the QR code associated with the person’s license and the information they are requesting will appear. So why should Maryland residents care about this new feature?
First, law enforcement will now be able to quickly identify someone just by using their phone. Many people travel without a wallet or identification, but most people do not leave their house without their smartphone. With there being about 5.5 million car accidents in the United States each year, having the opportunity to quickly identify someone can be extremely beneficial. Additionally, having electronic identifications will be convenient for residents because they will now be able to quickly pull up their identification, rather than having to waste time digging through their purse or wallets to find their physical identification card. Digital identifications will also provide more security and protection to residents, as it is more difficult for counterfeiters to fake compared to physical identification cards.
On the other hand, Maryland residents and businesses should be cautious when using electronic credentials. For example, many Maryland alcohol retailers have already invested in scanning technologies to check resident identification, however, those scanning technologies may not actually be able to scan the new digital licenses. Electronic identifications will also make it more difficult for someone to see if the person has any previous criminal charges. Furthermore, the state transportation agency stated that some older smartphones may not be able to download the app.
There are still some issues with the electronic identifications, which is why Maryland has not yet completely replaced normal licenses. Hopefully, Maryland will work the kinks out of the app and eventually adopt an only electronic form of identification.
Brittany Feinberg is a third-year law student at the University of Baltimore and an Associate Editor for Law Forum. Brittany is currently a law clerk at Schlachman, Belsky, and Weiner, P.A. in Baltimore, Maryland, handling personal injury and medical malpractice cases. Brittany will graduate in May 2020 and will be clerking for The Honorable Dennis Robinson at Baltimore County Circuit Court in the fall.