Louisiana’s New Digital Driver’s License

The Louisiana Office of Motor Vehicles has recently rolled out the new app for digitized driver’s licenses and the financial industry will start to see customers wanting to use them as a form of identification when conducting banking business. The digitized driver’s license is accessed through the LA Wallet app on a person’s cell phone. It is believed that Louisiana is the first state in the nation to offer a digitized driver’s license. This article is intended to give some basic information about the new form of driver’s license. The digitized driver’s license is a supplemental form of license that can only be obtained by persons who already possess a physical Louisiana driver’s license.

In 2016, the Louisiana Legislature enacted Act 625 by Rep. Ted James, (click to view) authorizing Louisiana drivers to be able to present a digital driver’s license to a state trooper during a traffic stop. The legislation required that in order for a digitized special identification card to be valid, the Department of Safety and Corrections was required to adopt rules, which it has done. Act 625 amended R.S. 32:411 to allow for the use of a digitized driver’s license to be used as an alternative to a paper license to satisfy the requirements for a Louisiana licensed driver to have a license in his or her immediate possession when driving a motor vehicle. Click here to see R.S. 32:411(F)(1)

A digitized driver’s license is defined to mean a data file available on any mobile device which has connectivity to the internet through an application that allows the mobile device to download the data file from the department or an authorized representative of the department, contains all of the data elements visible on the face and back of the license, and also displays the current status of the license. “Current status” includes but is not limited to valid, expired, cancelled, suspended, disqualified, hardship or interlock hardship status. Click here to see R.S. 32:411(F)(3). Note that the Louisiana Office of Motor Vehicle’s app must be used to generate the digitized driver’s license, as the law restricts the use of a digital copy, photograph or image of a driver’s license that is not downloaded through the application on a mobile device. See R.S. 32:411(F)(3)(c).

Act 625 contemplates that a digitized driver’s license can be used as a form of driver’s license sufficient to present to a law enforcement officer in connection with a traffic stop or checkpoint in Louisiana. However, a paper license may be required for other purposes. La. R.S. 32:411(F)(3)(c) (click to view) expressly provides that in connection with requests for identification not associated with traffic stops or checkpoints in Louisiana, a person may be required to produce a physical driver’s license to law enforcement officer, a representative of a state or federal department or agency or a private entity when so requested and be subject to all of the applicable laws and consequences for failure to produce such license. Thus, the law does not mandate that private businesses accept a digitized license as a form of identification. While the acceptance by private entities of digitized driver’s licenses is not required, it is foreseeable that citizens may start to use the digitized license and may not always carry a paper license. The impact could be that the use of a digitized license may become commonplace.  

As we move forward, the use of digitized driver’s licenses could catch on and banks will need to develop protocols for how and when they will accept digitized driver’s license as a form of identification. In particular, banks will need to think through how they will retain a copy of the digitized license as the photocopying of the image from a phone may not work well. Some have discussed the use of screen shot of the license that is then emailed or texted to the bank. It should be noted that the Louisiana Office of Motor Vehicles continues to issue physical licenses and that the digitized license is a supplemental service that citizens can purchase using the LA Wallet app. There is a small fee for purchasing the digitized license and the digitized license expires concurrently with the expiration of the physical license. One enhancement offered by the digitized license that is not available with a physical license is that the digitized license includes the current status of the licensee, such as whether the license has been suspended or cancelled.

Digitized driver’s licenses can be obtained by holders of Louisiana driver’s licenses through the Apple App Store or through Google Play.  For more information visit www.lawallet.com

Some additional thoughts to consider are that other states do not yet offer digitized driver’s licenses and it is unclear whether the Louisiana digitized driver’s license will be accepted in other states either by law enforcement or by private businesses. Another issue is making sure that the image presented on a phone as a digitized driver’s license is legitimate, meaning that it is generated through the official La Wallet app and that it has not been altered, counterfeited or presented through some other method other than the LA Wallet app. The use of a digitized driver’s license may not always be practical, such as customers using the bank’s drive-through line. 

Interestingly, the recent federal regulatory relief legislation, S. 2155, Section 213. Making Online Banking Initiation Legal and Easy, includes language to facilitate the use of an image, scan or copy of a driver’s license or identification card when an individual initiates a request through an online service to open an account with a financial institution or obtain a financial product or service from a financial institution. Click here to see S. 2155, Section 213. When looking at the existing federal customer identification programs regulation, the provisions on documentary verification did not contemplate digitized versions of driver’s licenses to verify someone’s identity, but the rule specifically sets forth the parameters of what elements are necessary to use a government ID. Arguably, Louisiana’s digitized driver’s license should bear those features to satisfy those requirements. Click here to see 31 CFR 1020.220. Nevertheless, the new Regulatory Relief legislation, S. 2155, addresses the issue.

Current law is limited to digitized driver’s licenses, not state-issued identification cards. However, digitized identification cards may also soon be available. During the Louisiana Legislature's 2018 regular session, Act 552 was enacted to provide for a digitized special identification card. Act 552 (click to view) is very similar to the law providing for digitized driver’s license.  Act 552 becomes effective on August 1, 2018, but will not be operational until the OMV can adopt a rule on it. I am told that the soonest that a rule could be adopted would be in November. In addition, the OMV would have to develop a web app to enable citizens to obtain a digitized identification.