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Students use fake IDs to outfox local alcohol merchants

It's Tuesday night. Rugby Road is empty. But a few determined partygoers head out to the Corner where several bars have drink specials.

Dan Murray, a bouncer at Buddhist Biker Bar, is not too busy yet, but the night is still young.

On "any average, busy night I see at least 15 fake IDs," Murray said.

He turns them away.

Murray is not alone in rejecting students' attempts to drink illegally. Corner bouncers and bartenders have their hands full preventing underage drinkers from using false identification to purchase alcohol.

At a University where students appropriately are dubbed Wahoos -- a fish that, according to University lore, can drink twice its body weight - fake IDs are so in demand that not even the honor code can hinder students from finding a way to drink illegally.

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    And despite the serious consequences of using fake IDs - violators can be charged with a Class I misdemeanor - students say fakes generally are accepted by the University community and do not seem to diminish the atmosphere of trust on Grounds.

    "Most everyone I know has one," said a fourth-year Lawn resident, who asked to remain anonymous. He said his fake ID was "a real ID from one of my friends."

    This student's experience with a fake ID is the most common for underage drinkers, who borrow IDs from a lookalike friend or relative. Most fake IDs are not manufactured in underground operations or through sophisticated computer methods; students get them from other people.

    Because it is considered lying, presenting a fake ID technically is an honor offense, Honor Committee Chairman Thomas Hall said.

    "Using a fake ID is an act of lying," Hall said. However, "manufacturing or just having a fake ID is not" and "most constituents feel it isn't a serious violation and they don't feel that it's a serious honor offense."

    The common use of fake IDs lessens the severity of the crime in students' minds, Dean of Students Penny Rue said. "Any law that is broken that frequently, people get numbed to."

    According to Hall, honor cases involving fake IDs are extremely infrequent, but there have been a few in the past.

    Fake IDs weren't even an issue until 1985, however, when the drinking age was raised from 18 to 21. Before that time, alcohol was served at University-sponsored events and dining locations, said Ernie Ern, senior vice president for development, who has been at the University for 38 years. The University changed its policies to match state laws in 1985, when the legal drinking age officially was changed from 18 to 21.

    Now the increased legal drinking age makes it more difficult for undergraduates to obtain alcohol. But as many students will attest, it is not impossible.

    A third-year College student who wished to remain anonymous said he uses a fake ID two or three times a week.

    "I've never been caught," he said. His IDs include a driver's license and a social security card.

    He said he believes he has gotten into bars so easily because the ID belonged to his brother. "I know all the information if anyone wanted to ask," he said.

    One anonymous fourth-year College student, who used a fake ID before turning 21, described most Corner bars as fairly difficult to enter without valid identification.

    "There's a couple that are somewhat easy, but a lot that are really hard. It's very limited where you can go," he said.

    By law, bars and restaurants are required to check the IDs of all patrons who appear under the age of 21.

    In addition to the legal drinking age, you must be 21 to sell alcohol. It is in the alcohol vendor's best interest to follow the law - consequences for selling alcohol to a minor can result in the loss of a liquor license.

    "Our policy is that everyone gets checked," said Bill Parrish, co-owner of the Lucky Seven Convenience store on the Corner. "If two people carry beer, they both get checked for IDs."

    The Lucky Seven is prepared to look for fake IDs, including fake IDs from other states. "We've invested in a booklet that shows what all the state IDs look like," Parrish said.

    The booklet includes pictures of every state's current IDs as well as older IDs. The guide also features IDs from Canadian provinces and several foreign countries. Color pictures of real IDs give vendors an idea of what many unfamiliar cards actually look like. The book is updated every six months.

    Perched on a stool in Coupe DeVille's entrance, Denton Worrell, the bar's assistant manager, said he too is prepared to check IDs. "The first thing you look at is the picture and what the state is," Worrell said. If the ID looks phony, he gives it back to its owner and turns them away.

    The Biltmore, on the other hand, confiscates fake IDs and destroys them afterward, said Biltmore Manager Mark Batten.

    "Two to three IDs are confiscated on an average weekend, but it just depends on the weekend," Batten said.

    Biltmore bartender Brian Erksa, a third-year College student, said new technology is making it harder to discover some fake IDs. "They do make quasi-holographic paint where it is possible to make a very good fake ID," Erska said.

    Looking at the holograms is one of the most common methods of checking licenses, Erksa said.

    Bartenders also said they check IDs by looking for unusual cutting, a computer generated picture or just to see if the ID is someone else's.

    O'Neill's bartender Dean Shannon, who said he checks IDs when there is no bouncer, said when he does discover a fake ID, he does not confiscate it.

    "We don't take them, we usually just reject them. The biggest problem with fake IDs is that they are passed down in sororities and fraternities," Shannon said.

    Murray said Buddhist Biker Bar does not confiscate IDs, but gives them back to their owners.

    Because some bars do not confiscate students fake IDs, they can continue to try their luck at other establishments.

    University Judiciary Committee Chairwoman Lissa Percopo speculated that one reason students might not report the use of fake IDs to the Honor Committee or the Judiciary Committee is because they feel "a fake ID case doesn't interfere with educational pursuits as a whole."

    Percopo added that the UJC would have jurisdiction over a fake ID case only if a student had altered a University ID.

    Despite the rarity of honor and judiciary cases regarding false identification, students at the University have suffered the legal consequences of using fake IDs.

    Students have been fined up to $500 for using fake IDs, said Student Legal Services Director Lester Wilson.

    Another more lasting result of getting caught with a fake ID is that "a person must explain that they have been convicted of a Class I misdemeanor," the most serious kind of misdemeanor, Wilson said.

    University Police Captain Michael Coleman said a conviction for the possession of false identification "might be considered by an employer."

    Although the University's Center for Alcohol and Substance Abuse Education is not specifically responsible for enforcing laws regarding fake IDs, Susan Bruce, the center's director, said her main concern about fake IDs is making sure students did not suffer the negative consequences surrounding their use. Although fake IDs may not necessarily lead to problems for students, she said the illegal consumption of alcohol could have many damaging results such as drunk driving, violence and arrest.

    Although students may feel immune to the dangers of using a fake ID, the consequences can be very real despite the rarity of Honor and Judiciary cases that deal with the possession or use of fakes. Whether or not students are penalized for using false identification on-Grounds, there is still a heavy penalty off campus.

    Minors using fake IDs can be charged with a $500 fine or community service and suspension of the offender's driver's license for up to one year.

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