In a college town such as West Chester there is certainly no shortageof places that sell or serve beer and liquor. With all these opportunitiesto drink, underage students often feel pressured to rush the cherished day when they turn 21. In order to purchase alcohol or enter bars, many students have resorted to purchasing or producing fake identi- fi cation cards. Other students choose to use the ID of another individual who may or may not physically resemble them. Even though most people know that there are repercussions for such actions, these individuals still believe that the benefi ts outweigh the risks.There are many people throughout West Chester who are determined to put a stop to underage drinking and the use of fake IDs. One of the fi rst lines of defense used in the fi ght against fake IDs is the all-powerful bouncer.
Most bars in college towns employ several bouncers in order to both check IDs and also to break up any possible fi ghts that may occur. The bouncers stand at the door and carefully inspect the identifi cation cards presented by the people who are attempting to enter the establishment.
WCU students Dennis Hagan and Joe Sannutti are bouncers at a local bar along Gay St. Theysaid that they would take approximately three to fi ve fake IDs per night at the beginning of the semester, but fortunately that number has gradually fallen to one to two per week. Sannutti says that the easiest way to spot a fake ID is to compare the height and eye color of the individual with what is stated on the card. He says that most of the people who try to enter with a fake ID do not necessarily possess a falsely created ID. The ID is usually real, but it is not actually the person on the card who is trying to get into the bar. Since this kind of activity is so common, many bouncers do not accept IDs that show anything other then zero for the number of duplicates.
Some people do still try to manufacture and purchase fake IDs. Bouncers are prepared and trained for dealing with these kinds of cards. Upon hiring, most bouncers are shown a book by an organization called RAMP (Responsible Alcohol Management Program), which states not only tips for checking IDs, but also a listing of examples of real IDs for each state. Since most fake IDs claim that the owner is from another state, this guide is especially useful for bouncers. Usually if a bouncer sees that an ID is from a strange state, he will either reserve the right to refuse entrance or he will consult this RAMP guide. Cpl. Bauman of the West Chester Police Department says that the easiest way to spot a fake ID is through poor quality. The RAMP guide instructs bouncers to actually feel for glue lines or bumpy surfaces, pin holes on the surface, or an odd level of thickness.
This guide also stresses the need to check the state logo, quality of holograms, reverse side lettering, and the social security number for the individual state. When a bouncer is questioning the validity of an ID, he is allowed to quiz the individual about basic information on the card such as birth date, middle initial, zip code and age. They can also ask for a second form of identifi – cation or demand that the person complete and sign a Declaration of Age card. This form makes the person identify themself as a person of legal drinking age, and thus puts more legal responsibility on the cardholder. If this person gets caught in a situation that involves alcohol, they have taken the responsibility off of the bar and onto themselves.
This form of precaution has proven highly effective in dissuading underage drinkers from trying to enter bars that promote its usage. If all else fails, bouncers have the right to completely refuse entrance to anyone with a questionable ID. Hagan said, “Some people initially put up a fi ght and then get nervous and leave. Others try to take back their cards, and if they will not leave, we have to call the cops.”
The police are used as a last resort because of the frequency of this type of violation. Cpl. Bauman says that bars are fairly cooperative with the police department when it comes to preventing underage drinking. She believes that this type of cooperation is in the barsʼ best interest since each bar is required to renew their liquor license on a yearly basis. Establishments that are continuously in violation of these carding procedures can lose their license and in turn will see a large drop in profits. If an individual is caught in possession of a fake ID, there are serious consequences. Three copies of the ID will be made: one will go to the police department, one to Harrisburg, and one remains at the establishment which confiscated the ID. The police department will either destroy the ID card or keep it on file to use as an example. The first time someone is caught with a false ID or tries to misrepresent their age in order to purchase alcohol, they are guilty of a summary offense. This carries a fine of up to $300, 0-90 days in jail, and a suspension of 90 days. Cpl. Bauman claims that the loss of license has the most effect on deterring the use of false IDs. Subsequent violations will result in increased fines of up to $500, one year in jail, and one or two years without a license. Any violation after the initial one is considered a misdemeanor and will go on a permanent criminal record.
The punishment for manufacturing or selling a false identification card is even stricter. According to the Liquor Conrol Boardʼs Web site, “A person commits a misdemeanor of the second degree if he intentionally, knowingly or recklessly manufactures, makes, alters, sells or attempts to sell an identification card falsely representing the identity, birth date or age of another.” The fine for the first offense is $1,000-5,000 and up to two years in jail. The second and subsequent offenses carry a fine of $2,500-5,000 and also up to two years in jail.
Students who are considering careers that require a criminal background check should think twice before getting involved with fake IDs. Teachers, doctors, lawyers, nurses, pharmacists, police officers, and many more can be denied employment based on previous alcohol charges that are found within a permanent record. Cpl. Bauman said,”Itʼs just not worth using a fake ID. You most certainly could get caught.”
For those who choose to use false IDs, the fight is never-ending. There is an entire arsenal of people who are determined to keep underage individuals away from bars and other establishments that provide alcohol. Several bars in town actually offer their bouncers monetary incentives for each fake ID that they claim. With the amount of cards these bouncers see every night, it becomes easier and easier to spot one that is not valid. As Sannutti says, “We can go down to Philly and get a fake ID just as easily as anyone else. Why then do people think that we wouldnʼt just spot these and take them away?”
Cpl. Bauman agreed, “They may look good to you, but think how many IDs police come across each day. We just get better and better at picking up fakes.”
So if a prosperous career and a life without criminal charges sounds good, authorities said avoiding the bar scene until 21 rolls around is not such a bad idea. Take it from them that the odds are not with those who choose to carry a fake ID. Cpl. Bauman has recently seen a decrease in the number of cases involving fake IDs, but she still has this to say: “I donʼt think the consequences are worth it. Itʼs a matter of numbers. Eventually youʼll get discovered.