Faking it: never been so easy
It was my first time in Downtown Los Angeles. The streets were packed with cluttered storefronts and bustling with people. But in this flurry of excitement, I was focused and could not forget my mission - get a fake ID. College is a time to cut loose and party hard, but with so many laws and measures taken to prevent underage drinking, the party lifestyle is hard when you are actually underage.
But for those willing to take a risk, a fake ID makes it possible to get around these laws. I went undercover to discover how easy it is for an underage individual to obtain a fake ID, and determine the validity of the laws that supposedly prevent underage drinking.
According to the Alcohol Policy and Information System (APIS), the punishment for getting caught with a fake ID could include a fine of anywhere between $250 or a maximum $1,000 fine, hours of community service, possible jail time and license suspension.
These are just some of the possible punishments for getting caught with a fake ID, but one could also find themselves in an even worse situation. JP Holland, a student at SMC, was caught using a fake ID last year.
"It was extremely easy for me to get a fake ID, " Holland said, "just got it through a friend and within three weeks I had it. But when I tried to use it one night at Coachella I was carded by an undercover cop. I was put on probation for a year and charged $150 fine. These laws are set up to prevent underage drinking but they don't. Just like with any substance teens are going to find a way to do it anyways."
In a recent study conducted at the University of Tampa, researchers found that 64 percents of underage students have fake IDs, while 61 percent knew of someone who got in trouble for using fake ID. So are the laws that try to prevent underage drinking really effective? Or are the punishments for obtaining and using a fake ID not severe enough to steer students away?
From my own investigative experience, getting a fake ID wasn't a problem - in fact that was the easy part. Just make sure you have a legitimate hookup, take a drive downtown, and within an hour an authentic looking fake ID will be sitting comfortably in your back pocket.
But actually using it is an entirely different story. Whereas some stores have strict regulations that prevent those with fake IDs from obtaining alcohol, plenty others do not.
Emma, (who wishes to maintain her privacy because she still uses a fake ID), is a student at SMC who reflected on her first experience using it.
"I had just gotten my fake ID and was dying to use it," said Emma. "I went to a liquor store and tried to buy some wine. I pulled out my ID and the guy asked my birth date, looked at me make sure I looked like my picture, and that was it. It was so easy to just walk out of there because all liquor stores only want your money and don't care about the laws."
Clubs, on the other hand, are completely different. Many clubs and bars now "swipe" all IDs, or use a black light to test their authenticity. So if you get caught with an ID, you might as well kiss goodbye to some of your liberties.
Alex Manos, owner of multiple bars in the Los Angeles area, told about how he deals with the issue of fake IDs in his bars.
"At our bars we swipe and black light all ID's," said Manos. "All of our security guards take training courses like the STAR program [The Standardized Training for Alcohol Retailers] from the LAPD, which trains our guys to spot fake ID's, and keep them updated on what real state IDs look like so its easier to find the fake ones. Also, we have a system where we photograph every ID, and simultaneously another picture is taken of each person as they walk in the door. Basically, this protects us against underage people using fake IDs."
But for every club or bar, such as those owned by Manos, that diligently pursue underage drinkers, there are plenty others whose security practices are decidedly more relaxed, and for as long as fake ID's continue to be easily obtained, there will always be plenty of takers hoping to use them.