Fake IDs grab the attention of police, students

Pam Steinle

A 19-year-old finance sophomore obtained his fake ID over the Internet. The ID contains his real name but lists a false address in another state.
“I’m not apprehensive about losing it; it was only 60 dollars,” the University student said. “I’m apprehensive about getting into trouble with the law.”
Growing unease with fake identification isn’t limited to this student. Faced with more severe laws for serving minors, businesses are making it harder for students to pose as 21 and get away with it.
Threatened with losing their liquor licenses, area business owners are taking special interest to prevent minor consumption. As a result, underage students are finding clubs, bars and restaurants more intolerant of “kids just being kids.”
Rich Swanson, owner of Bullwinkle’s bar on West Bank, felt the recent changes in regulation and enforcement have resulted in declining attempts by minors to purchase drinks.
“I think people are more scared now because businesses are more aware of it,” Swanson said.
Students often obtain IDs from older siblings or friends, or from Internet services. With these, effective bouncers can usually spot a fake just by asking questions and being observant.
But bouncers are nearly powerless against IDs produced when people obtain a state driver’s license using fraudulent birth certificates or passports. Stopping these fakes falls on the shoulders of state and federal lawmakers.
One year ago, state and federal legislatures tightened the license requirements. Officials will no longer retake a picture unless two forms of ID are shown and a change in name occurs. Officials can also flag suspicious applications before sending them to the state.
Minneapolis police officers have conducted several stings during this past year to check up on local businesses.
If servers violate the law, they will typically receive 30 to 60 days of stayed time, which is like probation. Owners and managers are fined between $200 and $300, and they might also be sentenced to community service.
Sgt. Tim Hoeppner in the licensing department of the Minneapolis police force was a bouncer 15 years ago at Eddie Webster’s in Bloomington.
He suggests that businesses card anyone younger than 40. After checking height, weight and other physical statistics, Hoeppner would quiz suspicious people on their addresses or zodiac signs.
If minors are caught with fakes, however, repercussions can be weak.
An establishment can place minors under citizen’s arrest, but with as much as an hour and a half before police arrive, most owners simply confiscate the card and refuse service or entry. While using a fake is a crime, few cases ever reach the courtroom.
“The problem is night-time squads are busy with other calls. Fake IDs are low priority, similar to a dog barking,” Hoeppner said. “There just aren’t enough officers to be there.”

Pam Steinle welcomes comments at (612) 627-4070 x3236.