Woman’s new license mistakenly features her in a face mask: 'Of course it would happen to me'

·4 min read

Lesley Pilgrim thought she was being proactive by going to her local DMV to get her licensed renewed before her birthday. But she ended up with much more than she expected — her license photo featured a picture of her wearing her cloth face mask.

Pilgrim, a 25-year-old law student at Chapman University, tells Yahoo Life that she was "excited" to get a new photo for her license instead of just mailing in renewal forms and using her old license photo for another five years. So, in early February, Pilgrim joined a long line outside the Laguna Hills, Calif., DMV.

"I cleared my whole work schedule for it," she says. "I was excited I was being so proactive." But Pilgrim says it became clear to her right away that the DMV staff was "stressed out and overwhelmed."

A California woman got a surprise when her new driver's license arrived in the mail with a photo of her in a mask. (Photo: Leslie Pilgrim)
A California woman got a surprise when her new driver's license arrived in the mail with a photo of her in a mask. (Photo: Leslie Pilgrim)

"They were making sure everyone was six feet apart, even directing people to the exact mark," she says. "I realized they were all working really, really hard to keep everyone safe." Pilgrim says she wanted to be "super careful and to make sure that I listened to every instruction so that I didn't to anything wrong or — God forbid — be sent to the end of the line. That was my biggest fear."

Pilgrim says she waited outside for about an hour, and for another hour inside the building to have her license photo taken. "It seemed like everyone in front of me was a teenager," she says. "They were very excited to take their picture and were taking off their masks before they were told. I saw some of the workers asking them to put their masks back on."

Photo: Leslie Pilgrim
Photo: Leslie Pilgrim

As a law student, Pilgrim says that she's "a very rule-abiding citizen." So, she thought, "I'm going to do exactly as I'm told." Once Pilgrim got to the front of the line, she didn't remove her face mask. And, when she got in front of the photo backdrop, she still didn't remove her mask.

"Nobody said anything and then I heard a worker say 'Look into the camera' and there was a click," she says. "I realized then that, oh no, he took the picture with my mask on." Pilgrim says the DMV staffer realized his mistake and retook her photo, sans mask, and she assumed there would be no issue.

But about a week later, she got her license in the mail — and it featured her first, masked photo. "I like to see the humor in everything, so I laughed," she says. "Of course this would happen to me." But, Pilgrim says, she started to wonder if this could be a legal issue for her. "No way is this going to pass as valid identification when I travel or if I'm pulled over — you can't see 80 percent of my face," she remembers thinking.

Pilgrim sent a photo of her license to her law school friends, asking if anyone knew if she would have a legal issue with it. "They all laughed at me," she says. "Nobody helped."

So, she sent the photo to her father, who is an attorney. "He didn't help me either. He just laughed," she says. Instead, Pilgrim's father posted a picture of her license on Facebook, where it was spotted by a reporter.

She was contacted by someone from the California DMV not long after. "They said they were really sorry and that they didn't know how this happened," she says. "I feel like they were a little embarrassed about it." (The California DMV did not respond to Yahoo Life's request for comment.)

Pilgrim says she felt "really bad," adding, "I feel like the DMV gets so much flak on a daily basis already."

While Pilgrim says she was assured that her ID is valid and legal, and that it is good for the next five years, she doesn't want to risk having to show extra identification when she travels. So, she has an appointment to get her license renewed — again — on Friday.

"I'm told I'm going to get issued a new license," she says. "I don't think they're going to take this one away from me — I hope they don't. I'm pretty dead set on keeping it."

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