Four underage women gather around a tattered book in a tiny copy center. With a spring break trip less than a week away, these freshmen have decided that in order to have fun, they need to be 21. In other words, they need a fake ID.
“These identification cards are not government issued,” reads a sign posted on the copy center’s already cluttered walls. The college students carelessly glance at the sign, instead focusing all their attention to paging through the book of identification cards and deliberating which state seems the most realistic for their IDs.
The women examine an Indiana ID. No, that wouldn’t work, they say. Indiana is too far away and would look suspicious.
“How about Vermont?” one girl says to the group.
The IDs are made of hard plastic and include the person’s real picture and a design consistent with the state’s characteristics. The Vermont ID, for example, has a background picture of snowy mountains. The actual designs of the IDs, however, are nothing like the real state’s licenses. Above the person’s picture even reads, “For personal identification only.”
After paying $40 each, this group of underage women from Vermont is now, at least unofficially, 21 years of age.
Fake IDs: Who’s got them
Some see using a fake ID as synonymous with the college experience. When the drinking age increased from 18 to 21 in 1984, fake IDs used for the sole purpose of consuming alcohol made their way into the wallets of college students. Bars, some say, wouldn’t have the same business if it weren’t for fake IDs.
Mary, a 20-year-old junior communications major, acquired a real ID from a childhood friend who looks like her. When the friend turned 21, she sold it to Mary for $15.
“When you’re at colleges, they’re going to know that all these college kids are coming out to party, and they’re going to have a fake ID. They probably wouldn’t have any business if it wasn’t for us,” Mary said.
Even though the picture isn’t hers, only one bar has ever turned her away.
“I’m just cautious about it because she’s my friend and if it were to get taken, she would be the one to get in trouble,” Mary said. “So if I suspect that someone’s really going to scrutinize it then I won’t go there.”
Dan, a freshman marketing major, said he uses his fake ID every other week. When a bartender questions his ID, the 18-year-old doesn’t hesitate to argue his age.
“I’ve had people take really, really hard looks at it,” Dan said. “I didn’t really get rowdy or anything. I was just kind of putting my point across. I wasn’t concerned about anything happening,” he said. “Any bar that you go to will pretty much serve you if you have an ID.”
Dan plans to buy a new fake ID soon. As a member of a fraternity with two years of underage drinking ahead, he believes a fake ID is an important part of his ideal college experience.
“I’ve definitely gotten my money’s worth out of it,” he said. “When it comes time to get a new one, hopefully I’ll get my money’s worth out of that one too.”
The Draught Horse on Cecil B. Moore Avenue encounters five to 10 fake IDs on a busy night, according to bar manager Joe Hart.
“I would look at it [the ID] and if I could tell it was fake I would give it back to you and say you can’t come in or you can’t have a drink,” Hart said. “If it was questionable, like it could be real, we have a declaration of age cards where we photocopy the ID and we have you fill something out.”
Employees of the Draught Horse complete “tips and ramps” training, a special program offered through the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board. The training educates employees of alcohol-serving establishments on the drinking laws of Pennsylvania, offers general guidelines on how to serve alcohol responsibly and tells how to identify underage patrons.
The Irish Pub at 20th and Walnut streets also caters to a college-crowd. Its reputation for being tough on IDs has deterred many patrons from using fake identification, said manager Christa Lawlor.
“With all the colleges in the area, it’s always a red flag when people come with 10 different states for IDs,” Lawlor said. “That’s when we’re going to really look … people think that we’re not going to look at them, or we’re not going to know what they look like, but we look closer at those.”
Pennsylvania law requires all establishments that serve alcohol to purchase a liquor license from the Harrisburg-based Liquor Control Board. If a bar or other alcohol-serving establishment is found to have served an underage patron, the business could face a suspension or revocation of its license in addition to a fine between $1,000 and $5,000, said Molly McGowan, spokesperson for the PLCB. If charges are brought upon the business by local police, the establishment may be ordered to pay a $1,000 fine for the first minor found to have consumed alcohol and $2,500 for each minor thereafter.
From the bar to the slammer
“The University is dry, so the tolerance is zero for underage drinking,” said King Paramore, a University detective.
Temple’s official code of conduct states that it is a violation of its policy for a student to use or possess fraudulent identification. If a student presents fake identification to Temple police, he or she will be referred to the University Disciplinary Review Board in addition to potentially facing charges on city, state and federal levels, depending upon how the identification was used.
“It’s a broad issue ranging from anything from a misdemeanor to a felony, dependent upon what you actually did with it,” Paramore said. “Federal issues depend on what the person did with the fake identification. If they assumed someone else’s identity, then we’re talking about identity theft; if you took that identification and cashed a bad check that would be a different story.”
According to the PLCB, individuals caught in possession of fake identification can receive a fine from $300 to $500. On first offense, they may also have their licenses suspended for 90 days, on second offense for one year, and for each subsequent offense a two-year suspension. If students are found with fake identification a second time, they may also face up to one year in jail.
“The bottom line is that a fake ID is a bad idea,” Paramore said.
21 and loving it
The four women giggle over their new identification cards.
“My picture is terrible,” says one of the underagers.
“It’s so cool to be 21,” adds another as she examines her new ID. Her smile fades into a nervous grin. “Wait … I mean, we are 21 … .”
The store’s owner chuckles knowingly. “You say that to persuade yourselves, as if it were really going to come true.” he says.
Sammy Davis can be reached at S.Davis@temple.edu.