Three weeks into the school year, some students are growing bolder when it comes to attempting to purchase alcohol with fake identification.
An area liquor store owner said that recently, an influx of mostly freshman females are getting caught with phony licenses. He attributed the increase to confusion about City Council and D.C. Superior Court decisions earlier this summer that virtually decriminalized underage possession of alcohol. But using fake identification is still illegal.
Brian Fischer, owner of Riverside Liquors next to CVS at 22nd and E streets, said he is noticing an increase in the use of fake IDs at his store. He was unsure how many phony licenses he has seen in the past few weeks.
“People are less worried because of the suspension of arrests,” he said.
Fischer explained that he has no interest in selling alcohol to minors, which comes as no surprise – Riverside employees have a reputation for meticulously examining students’ identifications. Fischer also said his store has stopped all deliveries because he does not want to risk facing the penalties of selling alcohol to minors, an offense that can lead to the loss of an all-important liquor license.
Fischer said he developed a system he follows every time he examines identification. First, he looks at the customer and the face on the license; if the two faces match, he carefully feels the card to see if it is legitimate.
Next he looks at the identification for signs of tampering, which typically takes the form of changing the cardholder’s birth year. Finally, he puts the license through an I.D. scanner that electronically displays the age of the owner.
Fischer said he has encountered many tampered licenses with the birth year changed from 1986 to 1980 – a process that seemingly transforms the typical Thurston Hall resident to a 24-year-old D.C. professional. When he scans the card and the age comes up as 18, the jig is up. A Riverside employee confiscates the fake, keeps it and turns it over to Metropolitan Police. Often the fake is the student’s authentic license that has been tampered with, causing a myriad of problems for those who need them for travel or other purposes.
Riverside’s system fails to account for students who have authentic, government-issued IDs that belong to older siblings or friends who looks similar. Students have also begun to purchase lower-level identification such as state cards that lack barcodes.
For a first-time fake ID violation, the maximum fine is $300; for a second violation the fine increases to $600 and a third violation yields a maximum fine of $1,000. All violations carry a suspension of driving privileges in the District ranging from 90 days to a year. Community service usually accompanies these fines as well.