Santa, all court up at Christmas!

Articles, Procedure + Litigation

In 2002, a municipal criminal court in Ohio had to decide whether a man presenting an Ohio-issued identification card bearing the name ‘Santa Claus’ had committed a first-degree misdemeanor by presenting a “fictitious” identification card to a state patrolman following a car accident.

Mr Claus (AKA Warren J. Hays of Warren, Ohio) presented the court with a birth certificate with DOB “12-25-383” (383 A.D.), several years’ worth of Ohio identification cards, a car registration in his name for a 1965 Volkswagen, a certificate of title for the same vehicle, and evidence of a bank account – all bearing the name ‘Santa Claus’.

After a review of the evidence provided, The Court put the veritable ‘lump of coal’ in the State of Ohio’s stocking and acquitted Mr Claus of using a “fictitious” identification:

Had Santa been charged with being “fabulous, legendary, mythical or apocryphal,” he might well indeed be guilty facing up to 180 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. However, to sustain the burden of going forward, the State must make a showing that Santa knowingly displayed an identification card that was “fictitious.” This the state has not done. The fact that Santa had an ongoing relationship for 20 years with the BMV is not indicative of “artificiality or contrivance,” for, in fact, under the publicly held records of the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles, Santa has been a “real person” since as early as 1982.

While vindicated, Mr Claus was not satisfied with his criminal issues being at an end. He was still had being subject to the underlying criminal prosecution, personally sued the state patrolman who filed the charges against him, alleging the patrolman’s actions constituted “an abuse of process” and that he was otherwise subjected to a malicious prosecution that violated his Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures and Fourteenth Amendment right not be deprived of liberty without due process of law.

Unfortunately Mr Claus did not get his Christmas wish, with his argument failing at trial court level, and on appeal. The Ohio Appellate Court found Mr Claus was not subjected to a constitutional violation or abuse of process. With several years of litigation at an end, Mr Claus could now dedicate his time to his workshop and tending to his reindeer.

Wishing you all a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year from all of us here at ERA Legal!


With the technical skills, diverse backgrounds and practical experience to match, our teams care about their clients.

Our Expertise

We have a strong reputation for providing specialist, market-leading advice in the practices we offer. Our teams are experts in their field and provide an unrivalled service to clients.


We want to share our knowledge with you. A collection of news and insights into those areas in which we specialise.


We offer a relevant, easy access platform that allows clients and colleagues to gain access to relevant resources.

Contact Us

With offices in Sydney and Melbourne, our team pride themselves on always being available for their clients.


We are collaborative, respectful and inclusive. Recruiting the best talent is only half of the equation; providing a culture that enables development is the other.

See our exciting opportunities available for graduates, lawyers, legal support staff and business services professionals.