Students risk criminal charges to obtain fake IDs

Meghan Pottle | Staff Writer

As college and prom season approach, the pressure to purchase a fake identification (ID) card for college arises. Teenagers may think they will not get caught for a crime that seems so common, or “it is never going to happen to me,” but such purchases are not immune to consequences. According to U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, “violations of liquor laws accounted for 15 percent of all arrests among youth aged 18 to 20 years in 2003 and 2004.”

Getting Duped

Not only do college students possess and use fake IDs, but high school students purchase fake IDs as well. In a survey of 12th grade high school students reported by “Troubled Teens”, “nearly one third of them reported having consumed five or more drinks in a row (binge drinking) at least once during the past two weeks.” Underage drinking is not only common among college students, but it is starting earlier as high school students begin to acquire fake IDs.

Senior Kristen Lewis* said she got her first fake ID her freshman year by getting together with a group of friends to buy them in bulk.

“There was a senior at Mason and she had a group going to order them online, so I got mine through that,” Lewis said. “The more people you have the cheaper it would be, but you don’t get to pick your state if it comes like that. When I got mine, it was $60 for two and I didn’t get to pick my state because the whole group order had to be the same.”

Typically, students buy two fake IDs in case one of them gets confiscated or lost. Lewis said that it has gotten a lot more difficult to purchase fake IDs because people will take the buyer’s money, but never give them the ID.

“It used to be so much easier to buy them online,” Lewis said. “Now, high schoolers scam each other. We had a group going, went to Western Union and paid. You have an online tracking number, so you can see when the other person receives the money and it said received, but we never got the IDs.”

Mason Police Lieutenant Jeff Burson said that fake IDs are not a new problem in the United States, but they are just getting more realistic and easier to acquire.

“We have always seen fake IDs,” Burson said. “With the internet, they are easier to get and the people that are making them are not here in Ohio; as a matter of fact, they are not even in the United States. They have been around forever and the holograms and things to prevent fraud are getting more and more advanced, but so are the techniques to make fake IDs.”

Getting Caught

The use of fake IDs to purchase alcohol and get into bars can lead to underage teens getting caught by bouncers and police.

Mason alumnus Michael Reynolds* said he got arrested with his fake ID and almost faced severe charges, such as underage drinking, possession of a falsified ID, and selling alcohol to minors.

“I got arrested with it at some guy’s house because I was dead drunk and the police took it,” Reynolds said. “The cops called my parents and they picked me up and I was supposed to get other charges, but they dropped all of them.”

Mason alumnus and Ohio University freshman Zachary Jones* said that he purchased a fake ID a week before his 16th birthday and has never gotten in trouble in college, but it was taken away in Mason.

“I got caught my junior year of high school with it at (Buffalo Wild Wings), so the manager took it from me and I threw a fit right there in the middle of the store,” Jones said. “I am now banned from (Buffalo Wild Wings) for life and they took my ID and wrote ‘fake’ over it with a Sharpie marker, then proceeded to mail my parents a letter, because I used my real address on the ID, about my fake ID and my foul language I used towards the manager after she took it.”

Similar to Buffalo Wild Wings, Riverbend Music Center is a popular venue where many teens look to buy alcohol from adults or use fake IDs. According to Riverbend’s policies, anyone drinking under the age of 21 will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Lewis said that while she was on her way to a concert at Riverbend with two college students and one other high school student, the police got a call that teenagers were drinking in her car.

“As we were parked in the gas station parking lot, police came out of nowhere and surrounded our car,” Lewis said. “They pulled everyone out, there was alcohol in the car, so they were going through what everyone was going to be charged with. They wanted everyone’s license, so my friends opened their wallets and their fake IDs were on top, so the police asked for everyone’s fake IDs.”

Lewis said she had her fake ID in her pocket, but decided to hide it and not give it to the police, so she did not get in more trouble.

“Pretty much what happened was no one got charged, they just made us throw everything away, they took the fake IDs, and the officer told us that each fake ID was a felony,” Lewis said. “Some people had two sets of fakes on them, so that would’ve been two felonies. It took 45 minutes, we dumped all the alcohol out, and he let us go.”


Consequences for owning and using a fake ID vary by geographics. According to Luftman, Heck & Associates Cincinnati Criminal Defense Attorneys, possessing a fake ID or using another student’s old ID is a first-degree misdemeanor in Ohio. Punishments for this include a fine up to $1,000, up to six months in jail, and suspension of a driver’s license.

Laws are even more severe in some states, such as Florida, a popular spring break destination. False identification is considered a third-degree felony and can result in a fine up to $10,000, prison time up to 15 years, and suspension of a driver’s license for a year.

Burson said that possessing a fake ID means to be in possession of criminal tools, which is a first-degree misdemeanor, the most serious of the misdemeanors. This is because fake IDs hold no other purpose than to purchase alcohol underage.

“If we determine they were using a fake ID to purchase alcohol underage and they had the fake ID in the first place, they would get charged with possession of criminal tools and they would get charged with underage alcohol possession,” Burson said. “The big question is if they are under 18 or if they are 18. If they are 17 or under, they are going to go to the juvenile court and if they are 18 or over, they are going to go to the Mason Municipal court.”

Captain Ben Spilman of the Miami University Police Department said that not only can students face serious criminal charges at Miami, but there are practical implications as well.

“There are a couple different criminal charges a person could face using an altered ID card or a completely falsified ID card,” Spilman said. “In addition to criminal charges, the person could be held accountable for the university’s code of conduct. The university would regard using a fake ID as a form of dishonesty and dishonesty is an academic charge that would be reflected on someone’s transcript as well.”

In January, a Miami University freshman, 18-year-old Erica Buschick, was found dead in her dorm room due to choking on her own vomit from the overconsumption of alcohol. According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, two weeks after Buschick’s death, the Oxford Fire Department made 21 alcohol-related runs to the ER between February 9-12, which is a common occurrence.

Spilman said that using fake IDs to drink underage is not a new problem for colleges and universities, including for Miami, but recent events have brought more attention to the issue.

“What happened here recently has just brought home for many kids the dangers of overconsumption of alcohol,” Spilman said. “On most weekends, when something bad like that does not happen, we are just getting lucky because there is an enormous amount of alcohol consumption among college students.”

Not Turning a Blind Eye

Although it may seem that the use of a fake ID is sometimes overlooked by police and bouncers, Burson said that underage drinking is not something Mason police take lightly.

“We can’t be everywhere, but we still find a fair amount of them,” Burson said. “It is not something we overlook because of what (teens) are going to do after they have been drinking. They have to get home, so we also run the risk of drinking and driving or impaired driving.”

Not only does the underage consumption of alcohol constitute for criminal and academic charges, but underage drinking is also a leading public health problem in the United States.

According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, “Each year, approximately 5,000 young people under the age of 21 die as a result of underage drinking.” The potential health risks include elevated liver enzymes, upset or altered critical hormonal balance necessary for normal development of organs, muscles, and bones, and possible impact on long-term thinking and memory skills.

Spilman said that he advises incoming college freshmen and underage students to not purchase a fake ID.

“The consequences are not worth what you are possibly gaining by having one,” Spilman said. “There are just far too many risks to even think that is a good idea.”