Fake IDs are not new to Gonzaga – around 100 students were caught using false driver’s licenses last semester at local bars and stores. Businesses near campus have started taking additional precautions since underclassmen are not only faking their age – they are also faking their home state. The inordinate number of fake Arizona driver’s licenses is causing problems for local bars and headaches for Arizona residents with legal identification.
“Students may be finding out that local businesses around campus have been implementing their own policies to prevent underage patrons from breaking laws and putting their employees and the business at risk from fines and penalties associated with their illegal conduct,” acting Lt. Ryan Navrat of the Washington State Liquor Control Board said. “Local bars had seen a larger proportion of fake Arizona identification used. The increased scrutiny is likely due to the conduct of underage people.”
Asking students who present an Arizona driver’s license for an additional form of identification is how local bars are exerting additional scrutiny. Tug Warrick, who bartends at the University Bar and Grill on Hamilton Street, said requiring a passport or other ID card has been effective at weeding out underage drinkers.
“If I think the Arizona [ID] is fake, I’m not going to accept a credit card,” he said. “They’re definitely hesitant about bringing out the second form of ID.”
“Asking for two forms of identification can be helpful in some instances,” Navrat said. “However, the employee of the business is the most important factor and should follow their business practices on determining the validity of the identification and the person using it.”
Students from other states do not experience the same scrutiny as Arizonans because fake Arizona licenses are so much more popular than other states.
“The liquor store near campus once rung a bell and shouted ‘Yay, our first real Arizona ID,’” senior Cheryl Bia, who is legally 21 but has run into problems using her Arizona driver’s license, said.
Navrat said that despite the popularity of Arizona as a choice for a fake ID, the licenses have the same chance of being detected as any other license.
“Arizona identification has security features built into it, as do other states,” Navrat said. “I don’t believe that Arizona identification is easier to detect then other states. With the right tools and a well educated employee of a liquor licensed business, fake identification from any state can be detected.”
Some GU students cite the fact that Arizona licenses have a more distant expiration date than other states, as well as the fact that the now defunct ID-selling website ID Chief advertised Arizona licenses as the “most trustworthy” cards as reasons why the IDs are so popular. One anonymous underclassmen said that he got away with using his fake Arizona license 10 to 15 times at restaurants and stores last year, and estimated that four out of every five underclassmen he met with fakes had Arizona IDs.
However, the efforts of the liquor control board and local businesses to crack down on fake IDs have not gone unnoticed.
“I’ve been kind of conservative about it just because I don’t want to be used as an alcohol mule,” the same anonymous student said. “Then it ended up turning into more of a security measure because I kept hearing about people getting caught with Arizona IDs.”
The additional scrutiny surrounding Arizona IDs has had implications that go beyond denying alcohol to minors. Upperclassmen who are legally 21 have been complaining of being inconvenienced because simply because they are from Arizona. Bia said she first experienced problems with her ID while trying to get into a downtown bar with friends.
“[The bouncer] kept telling me that if I walked away right there he would not call the cops and just take my ID away,” she said. “That couldn’t happen because it was my driver’s license and I needed it. I wouldn’t budge so he threatened to call Gonzaga and let them know I was running around with a fake ID.”
Bia said the bouncers spent ten minutes talking with her and comparing her ID to a booklet of current IDs, but ultimately refused to let her in without more proof of her age.
“[I was] frustrated, I asked the guys to let a cop swipe my card and to let them know it was real,” she said. “They wouldn’t let me in until I brought a second form of ID. [I was] pissed and annoyed, I went back to my apartment grabbed my vertical license and showed them.”
Bars and stores take such extreme precautions in part because of the penalties if they are caught serving alcohol to a minor. The first violation is a $500 fine, followed by a seven day liquor license suspension and then a 30 day suspension. A fourth violation in a two-year period results in a permanent suspension of the liquor license. For a business that relies entirely on the sale of alcohol, serving alcohol to underage students can be a disastrous proposition.
“Their policy has some merit because Arizona IDs expire within like 50 [years], but it gets annoying,” Bia said. “They should buy those special flashlights they use at the airport and see the hologram.”
Navrat said the liquor control board focuses on education, and that risking up to a $1,000 misdemeanor for using a fake ID is the choice of individual students.
“The use of fake identification is a choice by an individual person. It is up to the individuals making that choice to commit a misdemeanor or sometimes even a felony to stop the illegal behavior,” Navrat said. “The WSLCB provides education to employees of liquor licensed business and the community. Education has been provided and can be provided to students, employees and the public on identifying fake identification as well as the consequences associated with using fake identification.”
As long as underclassmen keep risking the consequences for being caught with a fake, upperclassmen will have to deal with heightened scrutiny surrounding driver’s licenses at their favorite weekend hangout spots.
“This has been happening since March, I’m over it and carry the second ID,” Bia said. “It’s a risk because I might lose both of them but it’s what they want.”
Bia said getting into bars with two forms of identification, or one if you are from a state other than Arizona, is still doable.
“Most of my friends have Washington IDs and they get in without a problem. I know people who have had Washington fake IDs and still get in,” Bia said. “So now I laugh when I get accused for having a fake, then Bam! [I] pop out my second. [I] always enjoy the look on their face.”
For the foreseeable future, at least, campus-area bars will continue to scrutinize students’ IDs, especially those from Arizona.
“Someone’s always going to find a way [to fake IDs] - it’s just us trying to stay one step ahead of the next trick,” Warrick said.