Parent Guide: The Dangers and Legal Consequences of Fake IDs

Teens should be aware that there are substantial consequences to making, carrying or using a fake ID. 

In most states the legal age to buy alcohol or to possess or purchase tobacco, nicotine, or vape products is 21. It’s not news, however, that pre-teens and teens find ways to smoke, vape and drink alcohol. Teens get alcohol and cigarettes from friends, older siblings and even parents – who either willingly hand it over or don’t realize it’s been stolen from home. 

Teens also access contraband by obtaining and using a fake ID and, in so doing, they expose themselves to serious criminal charges from the state and penalties from the college they attend. 

girl at bar drinking
There can be serious consequences if you are caught with a fake ID. (Twenty20@beaezor)

Laws governing fake IDs differ from state to state

All states have fake ID laws although how the crime is categorized and punished differs by state. The possession of false identification is by itself a crime and if you use that fake ID to do something illegal, you can face additional charges and penalties. Using a legitimate ID that is not yours is also a crime, although in many states it may be a lesser crime.

How do teens get fake IDs?

One method of accessing alcohol is to illegally alter your own ID. This has become increasingly difficult as state’s have tightened security on ID cards making it all but impossible to manipulate the information on them and create a realistic fake ID. Sometimes underage teens try to pass off a piece of identification given to them by older siblings or friends as their own. 

But most teens buy a fake ID from a counterfeit ID distributor. Manufacturers overseas who use specialized printers, have seized upon the ease of online shopping. A customer is asked to use a money transfer service and route the purchase fee, usually around $50 to $100, to a bank account in Asia.

These businesses typically offer a price discount for a larger order, so in some cases, a group of friends go in together to order their fakes. Once the money transfer is complete, the counterfeit IDs arrive in the mail within a couple of weeks, frequently stuck inside the pages of a book.  

In addition to the other issues we will discuss, working with a counterfeiter puts teens at risk of having their personal information stolen.

Potential penalties for making using or carrying a fake ID

It is a crime to make, carry or use a fake ID. With a fake ID in hand, teens may try to purchase alcohol or cigarettes, get into bars and clubs, buy guns, or misrepresent their identity. Doing any of these things is a crime in every state, although the penalties differ by state, there are a number of potential consequences that are uniform. 

Jail. A first time offender charged with a misdemeanor is unlikely to spend time in jail, but it’s possible. A felony fake ID offense can result in jail time.

Fines. Fines are a much more common penalty for fake ID crimes, though the specific amount of the fine varies significantly by state.

Community Service. A convicted offender can be required to do a certain number of hours of community service.

Suspension of drivers license. Some states may suspend a driver’s license if they have been found to have altered it.

Probation. Probation is another potential consequence where a judge orders you to comply with specific conditions over a period of time. Probation conditions can include regularly reporting to a probation officer, notifying the officer if you intend to leave town and a host of other requirements. Failure to comply with these conditions can result in jail time.

Colleges may also mete out their own punishments over the use of a fake ID

Colleges may decide to discipline their students compounding state consequences. 

Those disciplinary actions may include: Suspension from school, removal from college housing, removal from clubs and athletic activities.

For instance, the Student Conduct Code at the University of Southern California lists these “Potential University Impacts” if a student is caught with a fake and prosecuted: removal from university housing, suspended parking privileges, not allowed to study abroad, dismissal from the university; and all organizations, clubs, or groups may be subjected to permanent or temporary removal of recognition and denial of the use of university facilities.”

Serving alcohol to underage teens also has ramifications for the businesses that provide that alcohol

Few students realize that being caught in a bar while under 21 can result in the business being charged a fine, and possibly losing their liquor license or being shut down. This can affect the livelihood of numerous employees. Some states allow bars and liquor stores to bring civil damage lawsuits against minors who try to use a fake ID.

How do parents discourage teens from getting fake IDs?

  • Encourage teens to educate themselves on the state laws where they live and on their school’s policies regarding fake IDs and the fact that using one is a crime.
  • Explain that even though it seems like everyone they know is getting away with doing this, using a fake ID can have very serious legal and educational consequences. 
  • Discuss that any kind of conviction on their record, can affect future job opportunities, their continuing education, their ability to participate in campus life and their ability to clear background checks required for some jobs. 

So, while teenagers may be tempted to purchase a fake ID, especially the 19 and 20-year-olds who want to hang out with older friends at over-21 venues, using one can come with a very real cost.

More to Read:

Advice to College Freshmen from Recent Grads  Here is what recent grads want freshmen to know about how to start out in college on the right foot.

About Marybeth Bock

Marybeth Bock, MPH, is Mom to two young adults and one delightful hound dog. She has logged time as a military spouse, childbirth educator, college instructor and freelance writer. She lives in Arizona and thoroughly enjoys research and writing - as long as iced coffee is involved. You can find her work on numerous websites and in two books. Find her on Facebook and Instagram

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