By Danielle Chesney
Entirely East Lansing
EAST LANSING – Fake IDs are not a new phenomenon, appearing in popular movies ranging from the more recent ”Superbad” in 2007 to “The Breakfast Club” back in 1985. Though they are glamorized in film and television as a teenage rite of passage, fake IDs are an epidemic, with college campuses as a hub.
“It’s a college town,” said one Michigan State University student, 19, with a fake ID. “What do you expect? I know that East Lansing has cracked down this year especially on fake IDs, but if you’re a hot girl, you’re usually not going to have a problem.”
The MSU student, who requested anonymity because her actions are illegal, said she acquired her fake ID online to purchase alcohol and go to the bars with her friends who also have fake IDs.
Michigan State University Police Captain Doug Monette said he blames fake ID users for it being an issue, not police of bar owners.
“There are laws that are a part of what we live in, and if someone makes that choice to present or create a fake ID, that’s a choice that they’re making,” said Monette. “It’s against the law, they know it’s against the law, and because of that, there’s repercussions that they may face.”
The possible repercussions include a misdemeanor punishable by up to 93 days in jail and/or $100 in fines for using a fake ID to purchase alcohol, a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail for stealing or using a stolen ID, and lastly a felony punishable by up to five years in prison and/or $10,000 in fines for possession of two or more fake IDs with the intent to sell them.
“I’ve heard a lot of times that bouncers will know an ID is fake,” said the MSU student, “and if you argue with them, you’re a lot less likely to get into the bar than if you just say ‘Yeah, it’s fake.’ I’ve even heard where bouncers are like, ‘Alright, $10 cover. What do you want to give me?’ Then the bouncer will let them in. That’s just what I’ve heard from a bouncer.”
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Bars that serve alcohol to minors can find their own trouble with the law, such as receiving a citation from the city and losing their liquor license, in addition to varying fines from the Michigan Liquor Control Commission, said East Lansing Police Lieutenant Scott Wriggelsworth. This does not always keep them in line with the law.
“Most fake IDs, if it’s not blatantly fake, we’ll probably let them in,” said one East Lansing bar employee. “I feel bad for saying that. We pride ourselves on being quite strict and being pretty consistent with taking fake IDs because we don’t want to get in trouble with anybody. We make sure that we don’t let that many underaged people in.”
The employee said said that because of his employer’s past with being lenient on fake IDs, the bar he works at has become more strict on who it lets in, mostly because of pressure from the police. Fake IDs can both benefit and endanger bar business.
“Obviously, we’re letting more people in with fake IDs, which means more people are buying drinks and paying cover,” the employee said. “But at the same time, I know that the cops, at least in East Lansing, have been giving bars a pretty hard time recently. In the long run, fake IDs might be bad business.”
Wriggelsworth said that the East Lansing Police have always taken fake IDs very seriously, but does not think they are doing anything different than what they have done in the past.
“We do things to make sure that [the bars] are doing their due diligence,” said Wriggelsworth. “One of the things that we’ve been doing recently is as they confiscate fake IDs, we’ll actually do an investigation on the ID itself and see if we can link it back to the person that was using it.”
Wriggelsworth said that often, fake ID users will purchase an out-of-state ID and use their real name, but change their date of birth. He said police can use the picture and find that person and charge them.
The bar employee explaining different fake ID indicators. Audio clip by Danielle Chesney.
The bar employee said different indicators that an ID is fake are colors on the ID not matching up, inconsistent lamination, how the ID folds, and issues with patterns and text.
Not all fake IDs are fake. The MSU student said that some underage bar goers use real IDs of older people that resemble them, or sometimes do not, in order to try to cheat the system.
“People say that it’s way better and you have more of a chance to get into bars if you have someone else’s ID and it’s real,” said the MSU student, “rather than using a fake one.”
The illegality and the punishment are the same no matter how an underage drinker obtains their fake ID. Both Monette and Wriggelsworth agree that the law is the law, and all are expected to follow it regardless of whether or not they agree.
“I personally think that the cops are a little too strict about it, especially in a college town,” said the MSU student. “I know it’s bad and I know it’s illegal… but just tell us to go home. I just think the drinking age should be 18, honestly.”