Students face the consequences of fake ID cards

    Landen Hawke is a 19-year-old John Muir College sophomore who considered investing $100 in a fake ID. Like many underage American college students, he said he just wants the freedom to responsibly enjoy a little alcohol when he feels like it. A phony identification card eliminates common problems suffered by an underage drinker: no more leaning on friends, no more losing money to the beer man and, most importantly, no more just wishing you were out at a bar with friends.

    Hawke is like millions of college students all over America, caught between the frustrating freedom of age 18 and the limitations of the 21-year-old drinking age.

    “It’s stupid. We’re old enough to vote and die for our country, but not old enough drink a beer,” Muir sophomore Lindsay Young said.

    The drinking age was the focus of attention for a short time in the summer of 2001 when President George W. Bush’s daughter, Jenna, was caught drinking underage twice in less than two months. The second time she was buying a margarita with a fake ID. Some media sources called the scandal “Margaritagate.”

    Despite the attention, Margaritagate has not changed things. Fake IDs are still in demand and students can obtain them with a passport photo and as little as $40. The most successful IDs, however, come from older siblings or friends who pass on their driver’s licenses.

    While counterfeit IDs may seem commonplace, many students don’t know what the risks are. The general impression seems to be that possessing a fake ID or buying alcohol with one is not a serious offense.

    “It can’t be that bad,” Young said. “So many people have them.”

    The Price

    Twelve people were arrested for attempting to purchase alcohol with bogus identification at a local Sav-On Drugs on Feb. 27, a Friday night. The UCSD Police teamed up with the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control and the San Diego Police Department in an operation called “Cops-In-Shops.” The objective of the program was to address alcohol abuse and binge drinking by college students.

    The dozen individuals caught that night now face two misdemeanor charges. The charges usually result in a fine and community service. Also, conviction on the charges results in a one-year driver’s license suspension. The same also applies for other common college-aged crimes, such as possession of alcohol under the age of 21 and possession of small amounts of marijuana. Hiring an attorney might save your license, but attorney’s fees usually begin at $600.

    Being Smart

    “Be smart about what you do and you aren’t going to have any problems,” Sgt. Dave Rose of UCSD Police said.

    Since merely possessing a fake ID is a misdemeanor, students should be wary of them. Students have been busted when lost wallets were turned in to police and the fake ID was discovered while trying to identify the wallet’s owner.

    According to Rose, police are much more concerned about nabbing fake ID owners than merely busting kids who drink in moderation, because fake ID owners tend to supply other students with alcohol. Also, manufacturing IDs is a felony, and people who buy bogus IDs are encouraging serious criminals.

    Rose said that police are also interested in deterring people who are 21 and over from supplying alcohol to minors. They do a “shoulder-tapping” operation in which undercover cops pretend to be kids trying to score booze in front of a store. Again, Rose said that furnishing alcohol to minors is more of a concern than private underaged drinking because “it is larger in scope.”

    On Campus

    Drinking on campus entails less risk with the law as long as students know their limits. On campus, UCSD Police have the discretion to either cite students with either a misdemeanor or the lesser offense of violating school policy. Officers tend to deal with alcohol-related offenses in-house. Repeat or noncompliant offenders are the exception. Marijuana and fake ID offenses are mostly dealt with through the law.

    “Our main concern is keeping students safe, not patrolling for casual drinkers,” Rose said.

    Students who find themselves in a hot spot can get free legal counseling at Student Legal Services at (858) 534-4374.

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