In the cult 1980’s classic, The Breakfast Club, Andrew shares his sentiments with Brian about his fake ID. When asked why he needs the ID, Brian simply answers, “So I can vote.”
We can all find humor in this scene because we can relate to the teenage mantra of wanting to become an adult and do adult things. It almost seems as though having a fake ID is a rite of passage.
However, the classification of a fake ID as a harmless thing that most teens and young college students do is utterly false. Obtaining, making, or distributing fake identification cards has very real consequences, and more and more states across the United States are cracking down on those who have them.
The Role of Underage Drinking
In order to understand why fake IDs are never a good idea, we must first understand why people obtain them. False identification cards are manipulated to make a person seem older than they really are. In most cases, fake IDs are produced for the sole purpose helping those who are underage to obtain things that they are not of the legal age to qualify for; the most popular of which is alcohol.
The role the fake ID plays in the world of underage drinking is astounding. According to a recent study conducted by the University of Maryland, teenagers and young adults with fake IDs have a higher risk of alcohol-related issues. This is especially true with teenagers seeking greater popularity among their peers and young college students participating in fraternities and sororities or living off campus.
The Role of Alcohol and the Consequences of Having a Fake ID
False identification cards for teenagers and college students increases accessibility to alcohol, allows those holding them to negate responsibility in terms of alcohol consumption and increases drunk driving incidents and other alcohol-related injuries or deaths. These incidents are forcing states to look into tougher legal ramifications for those who are using false identification to obtain alcohol.
Long gone are the days where having a fake ID was seen merely as a slap on the wrist. The reality is that these cards are illegal, and North Carolina is leading the charge when it comes to cracking down on those responsible.
North Carolina has what is considered a no exception law. It gives stricter sentences to anyone who is caught drinking underage, distributing alcohol, obtaining or distributing a fake ID, or letting someone borrow a legitimate license.
There have been several cases in North Carolina where fake IDs have been at the center of the controversy. The most notable case is that of Chandler Michael Kania.
Kania was a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He purchased alcohol with a fake ID and eventually caused a collision while driving the wrong way on a northbound lane of Interstate 85. As a result, he collided with a car filled with four people, instantaneously killing three as the car caught on fire. One of the victims was only six years of age.
The family of the victims in the crash decided to file a wrongful death suit against Kania and his father. The reasoning behind the suit was that had Kania not illegally purchased alcohol and been drinking irresponsibly, the accident would have been avoided, and their loved ones would have still been alive. Kania’s father, whose name was on the title of the car, was also held responsible because he knew his son was the primary driver and should have reiterated the importance of driving safety.
While North Carolina is leading the charge against underage drinking thanks to fake IDs, other states are also starting to understand the significance of this increasing problem. Recently, South Carolina prosecuted three college fraternity brothers for the death of Benjamin Garrison Sprague, an 18-year old student from Clemson University. Prosecutors contended that although Sprague was responsible for his own actions because he made the choice to drink excessively, it did not negate the fact that the three young men who were charged illegally obtained and distributed alcohol to minors, thereby contributing to Sprague’s death.
The repercussions of underage drinking are growing increasingly dire. How can we as students, parents, guardians, and community members assist in deterring teens and college students from even wanting to obtain a fake ID?
- Stop Promoting It: The first thing we can do to prevent underage drinking is to stop promoting it as part of social acceptance. It is against the law and particularly dangerous to those who do not understand the concept of being a responsible drinker. It is not a rite of passage, but instead a terrible error followed by life altering consequences.
- If You’re Not 21, Find Another Way to Have Fun: If you have teenagers or young college students that are in your home, and they are not 21, do not serve them alcohol. You are just as liable if they leave your home and kill themselves, or someone else, in an accident. Be smart! You can have fun without alcohol.
- Talk to Your Kids: If you are a parent, you cannot be everywhere all the time. You have to trust your kids. However, it is imperative that you discuss the importance of not drinking while underage with them. It is your responsibility to help them understand the consequences of such action. Remember, in order for them to be responsible, you have to lead by example.
- Reach Out: North Carolina has plenty of organizations that can help you prevent or talk to teens and college students about underage drinking and using fake IDs. It’s okay to ask for help and dig for research, especially when it comes to the safety of your children.
- Recognize When There is a Problem: You know your teen or college student better than anyone else. Changes in behavior or patterns that are not conducive can be indicative of a problem and signal a time to act.
Spotting the Fake ID
Let’s go back to that clip from The Breakfast Club. Based on Andrew’s response to Brian’s fake ID, he wasn’t convinced that it would work for his friend because it was obvious Brian was not 68 years old. Technology has advanced substantially since 1985 and has made making a fake ID almost impossible to identify.
Aside from realizing that the teen standing in front of you could not possibly be the age shown on their presented ID, The Alcohol Beverage Control Commission of North Carolina has given these tips to help spot and stop the use of false identification cards:
- Understanding the NC Driver’s License: Familiarize yourself with what an actual driver’s license looks like. The Department of Motor Vehicles intentionally redesigned the license to prevent duplication. Actual licenses have one of three distinct features: red, yellow, or green borders.The red border indicates that the owner of the license is underage and not eligible to purchase tobacco or alcohol related products. This driver’s license is shaped vertically for easy identification.The yellow border indicates that the owner of the license is of legal age to purchase tobacco products; however, they cannot purchase alcohol. This license may be vertical or horizontal.
The green border is the ticket, and it indicates that the holder can purchase both alcohol and tobacco. It is horizontally shaped.
- Read the Actual License: When in doubt, take a close look at the license. Identify the name, the birth date, and also the date that the license was issued. For example, if the license says that it was issued in 1990, but it also says that the year of birth is 1994, it is obviously a fake.
- A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words: Look at the picture and look at the person handing you the ID. People get tattoos, haircuts, and sometimes even plastic surgery. However, what they can’t do is change their height. If the license says the person is seven feet tall, and the person in front of you is five feet tall, then it is most likely a fake ID.
- Check the Security Features: North Carolina has various security features on their driver’s license. Look for the watermarks, logos, and holograms located on the license. Compare the hologram with the picture at the bottom, and be sure that they match.
- Using the Sense of Touch: Sometimes simply using your hands to identify whether or not you are being duped works. For example, does the license have the same thickness all the way across? Is it cracked or broken? Is it frayed around the edges? Does it almost feel like the laminate is coming off? If yes, it’s most likely fake.
- When in Doubt, Don’t Hand it Out: Whether you are selling alcohol or serving it in your home, if you are questioning the validity of the license you’re handling, don’t sell or serve alcohol. You can be held liable, and it is the best practice to protect yourself and the person trying to obtain the alcohol or tobacco.
What If You Use a Fake ID?
If you use a fake ID, then by now you should know how serious the consequences of illegally obtaining alcohol are, and you should now understand that the law is cracking down on offenders. We cannot stress enough that purchasing, selling, or using a false identification card for underage drinking in North Carolina is illegal.
Be smart, be aware, and be responsible. It’s time to shelf the fake ID. Your future is far more important than one night of fun that can turn into a tragedy and land you behind bars.