Back to This Issue

Feature

Faking It

Everything you ever wanted to know about fake IDs, but were afraid to call the OLCC and ask.

By Brandon Oberlin

Does false identification have a friend in you? One who drinks and is under 21 would probably say "yes." Campuses all across the nation provide a huge market for the underground industry of fake ID manufacturing. While many students either possess or have a friend who possesses a fake ID, few know the full implications of its use. Unfortunately, the subject of false identification is rife with misconceptions.

While perhaps not rampant, fake ID use is fairly common. Pete O'Rourke of the Eugene Office of the OLCC reported that his office "averages 250-350 misrepresentation of age citations per year. Travis Pickett, a bartender at Taylor's, states that he sees anywhere from zero to three fake IDs per week. Cory at the 11th street Circle K said that he only sees about one per month.

Sources and Production of Fake ID

The production of bogus ID falls under several main categories. The most-favored techniques include altering an original, having one "professionally" made, and manufacturing one at home. According to one UO undergrad, "There's a guy I know in town who makes good Oregon driver's licenses for $60. Of course the best way to go is to have an older brother and use his." (Ladies, don't try this at home.) The advent of computers and the Internet has dramatically changed the landscape of false ID production. The MSN search engine turned up 5,959 results for "fake ID." Steve Siren of the Eugene office of the OLCC claims, "Anymore, everybody just makes their own [fake ID] off the internet. You can download all that information to make your own if you have the equipment. The internet has pretty much put the fake ID guy out of business." As a scanner and printer setup that would be capable of good ID production are now in the under-$500 range, it's not surprising that many people are making their IDs at home.

Two internet sites of interest to the alternative ID enthusiast are www.fakeidzone.com and www.fake-id.org . Fakeidzone.com offers driver's license templates for all fifty states along with a special fake ID program and other graphics editing utilities geared toward the ID maker on CD-ROM. Fake-id.org sells "the best commercially available" fake ID's on the Internet. They do offer this disclaimer, however: "Our ID's are for novelty purposes only, if you choose to remove the novelty sticker from the front of the ID you become responsible for all liability."

Home production of bogus driver's licenses isn't as easy as it sounds, however. There is only one type of printer on the market that costs less than $1000 that will print the gold foil needed to simulate the gold "Oregon" seals. These obscure dye sublimation printers are the Alps MD-1000 series. They are difficult to find retail, but can ordered through the mail or off the Internet. Matt, a salesman in the printers section at Fry's electronics states, "The Alps are about the only printer that will do that [gold foil printing]." Fry's recently dropped the Alps printers from their inventory.

The gold seals (the repeating "OREGON" and state seal pattern on the Oregon driver's license) aren't the only barrier to high-quality home production. According to EPD Officer Julie Smith, "The homemade ID's that are made on someone's printer are easy to spot because of the funny colors- it's hard to get the color right." Smith adds, " The things that usually stand out are raised pictures, gold seals that don't look right, and changes in the typeface. We also pay attention to out-of-state ID's and separated laminate."

Legal Concerns

Possessing DMV-issued identification that has been altered is a class C felony, according to Sgt. Gilliam of the Campus Detail of EPD.

Alteration includes any modification to the information or picture shown on a state-issued ID. Possession of false ID that has been home manufactured is also a class C felony. Using another person's ID is a misdemeanor as is loaning an ID to a friend for deceptive use. Ilona Koleszar, and attorney with Student Legal Services observes, "I've found that the person who loans out his license gets in more trouble that the minor who uses it."

The worst way to try to dodge a MIP is to try to pass off fake ID to a police officer. A MIP (Minor in Possession of alcohol) is not even an arrestable offense: legally it's no big deal. It is classified as a violation and is generally punished by a fine in municipal court. If a minor presents an altered or manufactured ID as proof of age, he has now transformed a simple fine into a possible felony charge. Koleszar notes, "You're better off giving [to police] no name than giving a false one- absolutely." The maximum fine for a MIP is $250 whereas the maximum fine for "Forged Instrument" is $100,000. A person is much better off just being happy with their MIP (violation) than by lying about who they are (misdemeanor) or worse yet, presenting a forged/modified ID (felony.)

Says Gilliam, "misrepresenting age by using some else's ID is the most common. It's not a felony to falsely use another person's ID." It should be noted however that using another person's ID, while not a felony, is considered a crime and is jailable. In addition to "Falsely Representing Age," a minor would also likely be charged with "Giving False Information to a Police Officer" which is also a crime. Gilliam also cautioned, "Computers used in ID manufacture can be confiscated as tools of a crime."

Police most often make ID busts by noticing two different ID's in a minor's wallet, according to both the OLCC and the EPD. These conditions would clearly make one guilty of "class A stupidity."

Enforcement

The OLCC is the primary enforcer of alcohol-related crimes. Not surprising, the vast majority of false identification citations fall into this category. David Green of the OLCC states, "Almost all false ID citations that are given have to do with alcohol."

If a person is caught with false ID but isn't involved with alcohol the EPD handles it. This may happen if a person is stopped or questioned for an unrelated offense and police notice other ID's in the wallet.

Gilliam said, "The OLCC may be notified, but they don't necessarily get involved if there is no alcohol." If the person is busted in a bar or in possession of alcohol the OLCC usually issues the citation. As far as the charges go it really doesn't matter which agency issues the citation. The citations wind up in the same court and have exactly the same penalties.

One sanction that can be imposed in false ID citations is a one-year driver's license suspension; even if the circumstances surrounding the incident have nothing to do with driving. The ID connoisseur runs into the same problem with a home-produced ID as with an altered ID: namely that the document will probably not withstand police scrutiny. Another fail-safe built into Oregon driver's licenses is the barcode on the back. It can be scanned with an ordinary supermarket-type barcode reader to produce a code that is linked to DMV computers. In a matter of seconds the scanner/computer system will return the registered information. This is routinely done in conveconvenience stores to verify Oregon driver's licenses. If there isn't a match, the ID will automatically be suspect and the police will be called. Police verify information on driver's licenses with their radios. Although the Eugene police do not have these scanners in their cars, according to Gilliam, they do have ready access to them through OLCC officers. Gilliam also notes that both the EPD and the OLCC investigate ID manufacturing operations.

The primary incentives for bartenders and employees to keep a close eye on fake ID comes from fear of reprisal by the OLCC. The OLCC has the power to hold clerks and bouncers personally liable for negligence regarding ID. The OLCC also has the power to revoke the liquor license an alcohol outlet must have. Pickett of Taylor's recalls, "It used to be that they would pay us ten bucks to confiscate a fake. I think it was through the bar, but I really don't know." Siren claims, "Although the OLCC doesn't pay money for fakes, bar owners may offer monetary or other incentives to their employees for [fake ID] confiscation." It is also common knowledge that undercover OLCC agents frequent drinking establishments.

To Show or Not to Show

Entering the discussion on identification, false and otherwise, is the question of whether or not a person is required to produce ID upon demand. Koleszar maintains, "There is no law that requires one to show identification. The police can detain someone for 'sufficient time to establish identity' under law, but a person simply telling an officer who he is satisfies that requirement." Sergent Gilliam agreed that if a person verbally identifies himself that there are no legal penalties that can be imposed for not producing identification.

There are situations where presenting ID can be a problem for people. Namely, if they are carrying false ID or other contraband in their wallet or purse. Although the police won't usually be friendly about a refusal to show ID, in this situation it is the smartest thing to do. The subject should truthfully identify himself, but if he is carrying contraband it is not wise to pull out a wallet and go for his ID. Remember, most fake ID busts are made this way. Koleszar notes, "The pat-down for officer's safety doesn't allow the officer to look for ID. The case law is very specific- it says that they're not supposed to frisk you for ID [in the "officer's safety" frisk.] The frisk has to do with officer's safety." It bears repeating that showing false identification to a cop under any circumstances is foolish and will always result in a bust.

Damage Control

In situations involving partying and arrests diplomacy goes a long way. Officer Smith observed, "We may not even charge a minor possessing a forged instrument with a felony if they appear remorseful." A simple MIP is often escalated to something more serious, as some students (especially ones who have been drinking) may get disrespectful or violent, according to Smith. One shouldn't expect too much sympathy from the cops, though. Damage control, yes-but don't expect any breaks. Smith also states, "When I see a crime being committed, I'm going to issue a citation. That's what we do here on campus. We're consistent." She goes on to note that the situation is only worsened when a subject is belligerent, which is common in situations involving alcohol. Koleszar observes, "Eugene police don't give warnings: they're not required to, therefore they don't."

Two words of advice for the fake ID user: be careful.

Brandon Oberlin, a sophomore majoring in Biology is a staff writer for the Oregon Commentator