Part 2 of Fake It Till You Make It
After Miami sophomore *Jerry Graham strolls confidently to the bar, he nudges his way past throngs of buzzed students and motions to his friends; he wants to take shots. With the blue band on his right wrist and the fake Illinois driver’s license he used to get it, Graham feels invincible. However, there is a nearly one in three chance that he and the convincing, computer-generated fake ID will be found out.
“Methods of fake ID obtainment and use in underage college students,” a 2010 University of Missouri and the Midwest Alcoholism Research Center (MARC) study, shows about 29 percent of those who use fakes have reported being caught.
Officer Greg Moore of the Oxford Police Department (OPD), said students often have only a partial understanding of laws regarding fake ID use.
“Students don’t realize the gravity of a conviction for fictitious identification, they just know they’re going to get an ID so they can go up and drink trashcans at Brick Street and they don’t realize that having a conviction for a fake ID, how is that going to look to a future employer?” Moore asked rhetorically. “It shows dishonesty.”
Moore added that the Oxford legal system takes the students’ intentions into account and that in other places, there could be far heavier charges.
“College towns are different, they’re just different,” Moore said. “A lot of times a fictitious ID is used for nefarious purposes, as you know, whether it be for voter fraud, whether it be for terrorism. This is for drinking underage and it is treated as such. But if you just look at the face of it, it is actually a very serious crime.”
MUPD Detective Walt Schneider said that on a federal level, the consequences of organizing an order of fictitious IDs are even graver.
“The federal charges on it are so much higher for ordering or facilitating an order,” Schneider said. “It’s a mandatory 10-year prison sentence if you’re convicted of ordering or facilitating an order of fake IDs for somebody.”
There is also an important difference between IDs like Graham’s, which students order from someone that manufactures fictitious IDs and a valid ID that is passed down to someone.
The law draws a faint line between fictitious IDs and valid ones obtained from a relative or a friend. In Ohio state law, both violations, possessing an altered or fictitious ID and using an ID that is not one’s own, fall under statute code 4507.30. However, it is considerably harder to charge someone who is found with a valid ID.
“If you have somebody else’s ID, and it’s a valid ID, we have to actually prove that you were using it for that purpose,” Moore said. “Basically, around here, if you’re caught with a valid ID that is not yours, it just happens to be your cousin, who looks a little bit like you and is three years older, unless we see you presenting that as yourself, you will not be charged.”
This difficulty may account for the low numbers of people in the Oxford area charged with violating state statute code 4507.30. According to OPD records, there have been just 124 charges since 2001.
However, these statistics do not reflect anyone who has had their record sealed, as a sealed charge is removed from the OPD system and therefore is not accounted for in these statistics.
Moore also acknowledged that the police apprehend far more people with fake IDs than those who actually are charged.
“We don’t always catch all the fake IDs,” Moore said. “But if we get six underage arrests in one night, we’ll probably come away with four or five IDs.”
Moore said they would probably catch even more underage students if the bars confiscated every fake ID they find.
“The bars are supposed to collect them,” Moore said. “Some of them do, then they turn them in and we get a stack, which tells me there is a much larger stack out there.”
According to Miami junior and doorman at The Wood’s *Derek Johnson, The Wood’s turns away fake IDs at an alarming rate.
“Probably every ten minutes and probably more than that,” Johnson said.
However, Johnson said that he and his coworkers, because they lack the formal training in spotting fake IDs, they do not feel comfortable seizing an ID that they aren’t confident is fake.
“We don’t really do anything at the bar, we just turn them away and don’t let them in,” Johnson said. “We technically could take them, but since we haven’t been formally trained, we play it safe and turn them away. If they keep coming back trying to use it, then we let the managers know and they will come out and take them away.”
Graham and other students are aware that most bars will not confiscate IDs, and that even if they do, the police will not follow up on these IDs. This low risk leads to students asking themselves, “Why wouldn’t I use a fake ID?”
“Back in the day, and I’ve seen it all change in my time here,” Moore said. “I’ve been here 23 years. Back in the day it was a Polaroid camera and what you would do is you’d have to stand 30 yards away to get the picture small enough and then you would basically cut it up and make a license.”
ID manufacturers, both locally and overseas, mostly in China, have come a long way since the days of manually cutting and pasting paper.
“It’s amazing how good these licenses are, amazing,” Moore said. “And they do it all computerized now and the print quality, it’s just fantastic and you make some really darn good licenses.”
To counteract these realistic IDs, Moore is advocating that all bars be required to have an ID scanner at the door. However, this is something that Schneider pointed out will not catch the best fakes.
“You order these IDs and you run them through a card swipe and now they’re going to read what the ID says,” Schneider said. “So with the technology now, people are doing it and programming these cards so when you swipe it, it reads that data. It tells you the person’s name, the date of birth, everything that’s written on the card.
Of course, that kind of quality comes at a high cost.
“Depending on where you go, it’s anywhere from $225 to $150,” Schneider said. “But you usually get two, with the same state same stuff, so if you get busted tonight, you can try a different bar tomorrow night.”
This, however, is not always the case.
Connor Galvin is a sophomore and an acquaintance of Graham’s. One drunken night and a run-in with the police in his first semester of college persuaded him to take it easy the rest of the year.
“I was blackout drunk,” Galvin said. “I was in my room and the door didn’t shut and my Resident Assistant (RA) heard me puking in a bucket and she opened the door and since the RAs have to call the police if you’re puking, she called the police.”
As is procedure, the MUPD officer looked through his wallet, where Galvin had a 21-year old driver’s license.
“I was really intoxicated and it was a Michigan 21-year old ID, he had brown hair, I have blonde hair,” Galvin said.
However, luckily for Galvin, it was a valid ID and he
was not charged.
“It was a real ID so I was able to say that I found it and I was returning it,” Galvin said.
Galvin did not for a second think about going out the next night.
“It was an eye-opening experience,” Galvin said. “When you see what can actually happen, you see that those decisions can follow you the rest of your life. I am more conscious and aware now so that’s why I’m glad I learned my lesson so early.”
Unlike Galvin however, many Miami students, Graham included, continue to flood Uptown and nearby liquor stores with fake IDs. There are so many that police said they cannot expect to completely eliminate the problem.
“Keep it under control, that’s what’s realistic,” Moore said. “Would I like to stop it? Hell yeah. Can I stop it? Hell no. Try and control it.”
*Name changed to protect source from legal or employment ramifications.