MT driver’s license not in compliance as REAL-ID Act enforcement begins

Jan 17, 2014

On Monday, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security will begin to gradually enforce components of the 2005 REAL ID Act, a law which sets federal security standards for state-issued IDs.

Montana is one of 15 states with driver’s licenses not in compliance with the law. This means Montana ID’s will be declined in more and more places with federal oversight, starting with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) headquarters in Washington D.C. and culminating with federally regulated aircraft.

“We don’t need a national ID card and we don’t need more data being collected,” said Governor Steve Bullock.

Bullock sent a letter to DHS Friday objecting to the new standards.

“In addition to the excessive cost of creating a national database, Montanans are appropriately concerned with the extensive collection of their personal and private information by the government,” the letter reads.

The Montana Legislature unanimously voted against complying with the law in 2007 and Bullock has opposed it both as Attorney General and as Governor.

“We’ll continue to say we have one of the safest IDs in the nation,” Bullock said. “We’ve taken solid steps to improve the security of the driver’s licenses.”

For state’s with non-compliant IDs, enforcement will begin in four phases, as described on the DHS website:


Each of these phases will begin with a three-month notification period where agencies will provide notice of the new rules but will still allow access. A review of the program will also occur before the final phase of the law takes effect, no sooner than 2016.


DHS declined comment for this story, including a request for exactly how Montana’s ID does not comply with the law. But a Privacy Impact Assessment on the REAL ID Act says it mandates minimum document and verification requirements and security features as well as physical security standards for the offices which produce the cards and background checks for anyone involved in the issuing or manufacture of the cards.

The assessment also says the law will require state databases contain standardized photo images “that will allow law enforcement agencies to use facial-recognition technology to help apprehend criminals.” State DMVs would also be able to use this data to prevent drivers whose licenses have been revoked in one state from getting one in another.

The new ID law does not prohibit these federally controlled places from accepting other forms of ID, such as a U.S. passport.

In his letter, Bullock asked DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson not to take actions which would penalize Montanans using their current state driver's license.