Chapel Hill police issued 23 arrests in the past year for use or possession of a fraudulent ID. This does not include arrests made by the Alcohol Law Enforcement (ALE) or arrests for related crimes like possession.
“There are a couple different situations, but typically there’s a misdemeanor charge for fake IDs,” said Sgt. Josh Mecimore, spokesman for the Chapel Hill Police Department.
Both using a fake ID and a valid ID belonging to someone else usually results in a misdemeanor. But Mecimore said using a valid ID to pose as another person could result in a felony charge of identity theft, but is rare.
“Identity theft requires using someone else’s identity to make financial gain or avoiding prosecution,” he said.
Dorothy Bernholz, director of Student Legal Services, said local judges and district attorneys treat use of a fake ID even more seriously than underage possession.
“It really implies criminal intent,” she said.
Bernholz said students who get tickets for false identification often opt for deferred prosecution, and if they complete community service, an alcohol education course and pay court fees, the charges are dismissed. The number of service hours varies, and violators can also lose their driver’s license for a year.
The ability to defer prosecution and expunge a charge can only be used once.
Bernholz said she believes Chapel Hill businesses are willing to risk fines for serving those with fake IDs to keep operating.
“I think the local bars are a big part of the problem,” Bernholz said. “They want to have a good party scene and let people in, even though they are required not to.”
Daniel Llamas, manager of Goodfellows bar, said bars need to be familiar with fake IDs in a college town.
“You just have to be able to learn to recognize that they’re out there and keep an eye out,” he said.
The ALE offers classes on how to identify fake IDs.
“We have a book,” Llamas said. “If it’s questionable, we can look to see what the state ID is supposed to look like.”
Tom Gualtieri, general manager of La Residence Restaurant & Bar, said bars with a reputation for being strict on fake IDs see fewer.
“We take them if they’re fake and turn them in to Chapel Hill police,” he said.
Mecimore said confiscated IDs are used for training.
A concern aside from the IDs themselves is the risk of over-consumption of alcohol, said Trish Halsey, director of Carpe Diem, UNC’s preferred alcohol education course. She said of the 139 students seen this year, about 50 have a fake ID charge.
“(EMS responses) have skyrocketed from last year to this year, and I wonder if the use of fake IDs is correlated,” she said.
Mecimore said the focus is also on events that occur due to alcohol consumption, like robbery or sexual assault.
“One of the ways we combat that is increasing enforcement of drinking laws and fake ID laws so other things don’t happen down the road,” he said.
Junior Ping Nguyen said he was unaware of the legal consequences of using a fake ID.
“I just thought they take your ID and say don’t do it again,” he said.
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