For some Ohio University students, nothing takes the edge off after a long week of classes like an alcoholic drink — even if that means borrowing or fabricating a fake ID to get into an uptown bar.
Bar-goers might encounter a serious consequence to that decision, whether that is an arrest or citation by local police or the bartender simply turning them away at the door.
The Athens Police Department rarely sees cases of false IDs — usually fewer than 20 a year — Capt. Ralph Harvey said, as uptown bar owners and bouncers typically take the situation into their own hands.
John Oberlin, manager at the Crystal, 34 N. Court St., said employees work hard to identify and turn away fake ID holders at the door.
“We’ve got a book that has all fifty states’ (current IDs) in it,” Oberlin said.
He added that bouncers study the book, which contain pictures of each state’s ID and details the differences between IDs for those who are of drinking age and those who are minors. Anheuser-Busch supplies the bar with a new book each year.
“If (bouncers) have a question about any state’s (IDs) they can look at (the book),” Oberlin said.
Though Crystal employees often turn away fake IDs at the door, Oberlin said it’s rare for employees to confiscate those IDs or call APD.
“Sometimes, IDs are stolen from people we know,” Oberlin said. “One of our bartenders had her ID stolen, and somebody tried to use it to get in.”
Harvey said it’s completely up to a business and its owners to decide how ID debacles should be handled.
“Usually, it’s just a refusal of service, which is their right,” Harvey said. “If a business doesn’t want you there, it doesn’t want you there.”
Harvey said reports of fake IDs still come in to the department, though it’s uncommon.
“At least half the time, when we get those calls, the ID is from a state that the employee isn’t familiar with or the person has gained or lost a lot of weight and they don’t look like themselves,” Harvey said.
In situations like those, Harvey said, police simply verify the ID. Rarely, the card ends up being a fake.
“Occasionally, we’ll get someone that thinks they can get one over us, and we’ll arrest them,” Harvey said.
At that point charges could be steep, said Ohio Investigative Unit Assistant Agent-in-Charge Sam Love.
“Law enforcement can charge an individual that has a fake identification on their person with prohibited acts,” Love said in an email, adding charges for holding a fake ID can include falsification, prohibited acts or obstructing official business.
He said that translates to a first-degree misdemeanor, which can result in up to six months in jail or a $1,000 fine.
Those charges change quite dramatically if someone is found making or selling fake IDs. Love said they can be charged with illegal manufacture of an ID, which is a fifth-degree felony carrying a maximum punishment of 12 months in jail and/or a $2,500 fine.
If a minor buys alcohol using a fake ID, they could be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor. That could result in up to six months in jail or up to $1,000 in fines, according to the Ohio Revised Code.
Love said the best way to avoid citation or arrest is to simply abstain from using a fake ID.
“If you’re not 21, don’t drink and don’t use a fake ID or someone else’s identification,” he said. “If a person decides to drink when they’re underage or they use a fake identification to attempt to obtain alcohol, they need to understand there is the possibility for repercussions.”