You get up to the front of the line of a nightclub in full makeup and a fabulous new dress, ready to party the night away. The bouncer looks you up and down, raises an eyebrow and confiscates your fake ID, and you’re forced to do the under-21 walk of shame past the rest of the people waiting in line. Your night is ruined, but the truth is that things could be a lot worse. In the pursuit of partying, some college students pull a McLovin and use fake identification (usually a fake driver’s license) to get into bars, clubs, and liquor stores. But getting a fake and using one can be very risky. It sucks not being able to go to the bars and clubs your friends are buzzing about, so getting a fake ID can be super tempting, but it’s essential for collegiettes to be aware of the potential penalties of using a fake ID before you whip out your wallet.
Fake IDs: What’s the deal?
College, as everyone knows, is a bastion of freedom. A lot of students spend their Saturday nights letting loose. But once you’ve graduated from playing beer-pong in someone’s basement, going out to bars and clubs is the next logical step. Cities with a lot of colleges have different reputations for being able to get into bars with a fake ID. For example, New York bars are notoriously easy to get into with a fake, while Boston tends to be less lenient.
A fake ID can be the gateway for experiencing some adult activities with friends, significant others, and co-workers. Caitlin, a student at Emerson College, had a 23-year-old boyfriend, a bouncer at a nightclub, who liked to go out on his nights off. A then 20-year-old Caitlin just wanted to spend time with him and his friends.
”He decided to swipe me an ID from where he worked,” Caitlin says. “They had a bunch sitting behind the bar from when they took them away from other people who had used them as a fake ID or had a problem, so it was a real ID, it just wasn't me. It was some 23-year-old girl named Laura from Pennsylvania who really looked nothing like me.” Access to a fake ID can be surprisingly easy. Most people know a guy who knows a guy who knows a guy who can either make one or produce someone else’s real one for you. There are even websites that boast being able to print quality “novelty IDs.” It’s really a supply and demand business, and the demand for fake IDs shows no signs of slowing down.
Sometimes, fake IDs can be passed down by friends or family. In a response to a Her Campus survey, one collegiette says, “One of my sorority sisters got an old ID from a family friend, but then decided that it didn't look enough like her, so she gave it to me. I got lucky, I guess—I had wanted one, but not enough to actively search for one and pay for it. The picture on the ID just happened to look a lot like me.”
Some collegiettes are willing to pay good money, even for an inaccurate ID. “I got mine in New York the summer after freshman year. It was a ‘Maine’ ID, cost $80 and was surprisingly effective considering how terrible it was.”
Melissa* says that she has found that getting into bars can be iffy. Some will card and some won’t, so every time you use a fake ID, you’re taking a chance. “I’ve had a fake since I was 17,” she says. “I’ve already been through four fakes. In Ithaca, NY, where I go to school, it’s extremely strict because it’s a college town, but if you know a bouncer at a bar they will let you in. Some bars are harder than others and known as ‘senior-only’, but most restaurants don’t card.”
What happens if you get caught?
Caitlin had a scare when she tried to use her fake ID to order a beer in a restaurant. “They asked me for my ID,” Caitlin says. “And then the guy looked at it and looked back at me and did that several times. I was freaking out. He took the ID and went and asked someone else. That guy came over and they both decided it wasn't me. I assured them it was me, and they asked me for backup.”
It is common and legal for alcohol retailers to ask for back-up identification to verify the license.
“I told them it was in the car, and they said go get it,” Caitlin says. “Knowing that I had no backup in the car and that I was just going to leave, I asked them for my ‘license’ back, and they said no. I said they weren't allowed to keep it, and they said they would see what the cops had to say about it, and the one guy yelled over to the bar saying ‘call the police,’” Caitlin says. “I panicked and grabbed the two friends who I drove with, and we bolted.”
Other collegiettes have had no problems using their fake IDs. “I never had any problems with mine,” says a survey respondent. “But I had a really good one—it was a real ID (just fake for me), and the picture looked a whole lot like me. But even though my ID was better than many of my friends', I never used it except at a few bars in my college town that are notorious for not being very strict with IDs.”
The penalties for having a fake ID, using one, manufacturing one, and impersonating a person on an ID that isn’t yours are all different depending on the state. It’s important to go to your state’s Alcohol and Beverage Commission website to get the official laws.
The consequences for producers of fake IDs are hefty. In the state of Missouri, the forgery of a government issued identity document is a felony. It is punishable by up to seven years in prison and/or a fine up to $5,000.