Federal fake

June 8, 2009, midnight | By Susie Branson | 12 years, 5 months ago

Transparent penalties and increasing technology provide students with a blossoming fake ID market

Where only first names appear, names have been changed to protect the identities of the sources.

He will never forget the flashing red and blue lights in his rearview mirror. Panic seized his throat as he managed words to tell everyone in the car to sit down and be calm. As the police officer approached his window for speeding, the next five hours were a blur of citations and handcuffs as his friends were arrested for underage drinking and he was taken down to the station for the possession of a piece of plastic: a fake ID.

Although the memory may not fade, the experience for senior Stan held no serious consequences. According to USA Today, despite federal and state implementations to crack down on fake IDs, teenagers across the nation are getting away with the federal offense, continuing to carry the illegal plastic cards while avoiding any real repercussions.

Approximately 50 percent of students ages 14 - 20 possess fake IDs, according to Sergeant Jacques Croom, who supervises the alcohol Initiatives Unit for the Montgomery County Police Department (MCPD). This number is continuing to grow as teenagers' easy access to advanced technology makes it increasingly easy to replicate a state ID.

Easy access
Despite various states' attempts to make the replication harder for law-breakers through the use of holograms, bar codes and magnetic strips, teens are continuously finding ways around the new implementations. Minors have easy access to various ID-making kits and online companies that will produce practically any state's ID for a small fee ranging from $10 to $150.

These companies or individual ID manufacturers base their prices on the quality and complexity of the desired state's ID. Each state's differing ID characteristics mean some are easier than others to replicate. "I would say the most popular states are Florida and Vermont," explains senior Peter, who operates a small business manufacturing and selling fake IDs. Most of his customers are Blair students. "It's a business, so we want to make money off of selling the least complicated IDs," he says.

Any individual willing to break a few laws with a scanner, color printer and laminator can essentially create the ID of their choice. Forgers can use a variety of resources like templates or basic design software to create fake IDs by scanning in an actual license into a computer and altering the barcode, birth date and even creating any necessary holograms.

The manufacture of fake IDs is becoming so professional that some underage Blazers have no problem acquiring liquor from bars or stores, getting past nightclub doormen and even fooling police officers. "It's a difficult task just because the technology people have access to really does make some IDs virtually unidentifiable," explains Sergeant Tim Kwaloff of the MCPD Alcohol Enforcement Section. "However, we are in a process of trying to crack down and increase penalties for any minor charged with possession or distribution of fake IDs." Several companies and police training classes have started holding sessions for their bartenders or police officers, instructing how to distinguish and recognize fake IDs across all states.

Puny punishment
In an effort to diminish the use of fake IDs, states have implemented various laws and repercussions for the possession and distribution of IDs. According to the MCPD, if discovered with a fake ID, Maryland minors can face up to $1,500 in fines and have their driver's license suspended for a full year. Some Blazers, however, would say this charge is rarely enforced or carried through.

After dropping his wallet in a different city, senior Bill was lucky enough to have it given to the county authorities. Upon discovering the fake ID, police merely confiscated the plastic card without any repercussions and returned the wallet to Bill. "There was definitely a potential that I could have gotten into real trouble; I guess it was just lucky," Bill says.

"Luck" is becoming a common word in the fake ID world as numerous minors who have been exposed or caught with possession merely had their IDs confiscated, facing none of the aforementioned penalties.

After having his car and wallet searched by police, Stan too had his fake ID discovered and confiscated a few months ago. Police threatened Stan with a court date to face charges; he has yet to receive any notification from the authorities about resulting repercussions.

Although Stan admits to being frightened at the time of his arrest, the lack of county follow-through has only fueled his business. "I've been in the position where I could have received serious penalties, and I didn't," Stan explains. "It just shows me how disorganized the county is and proves how much I can get away with. There's no way I'm going to stop this little business now, it's just starting."

In the experiences of these Blazers, Maryland has provided no real incentive to dispose of or cease production of fake IDs. "It's a fight the police really can't win," Stan says. "There is such amazing technology out there and it's only going to get better."

Susie Branson. Key facts of Susie Branson: she's a junior in CAP, her favorite food is peanut butter, she plays soccer and lacrosse, she can't stand talking on the phone, loves country music, and her favorite ice cream is Phish Food. She is way too competitive for … More »

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