By Holly Wells
CHRIS CODUTO / Arizona Daily Wildcat
TPD bike officer Kelly Porach writes a citation for a person caught using a fake ID trying to enter Maloney's Tavern. An underage person caught using a fake ID faces a six-month suspension of their driver license and other charges.
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, September 7, 2004
Tucson Police Department officers say the beginning of the school year is a prime time to crack down on fake ID usage, and those who are caught usually don't expect the tough penalties that go with it.
"It's amazing how much of our activity revolves around alcohol," said officer Chris Wildblood, who is part of TPD's downtown division. "It's a big hot button, especially this time of year."
Students arrested for using fake IDs could have their driver licenses suspended for six months, making the punishment for fake IDs more severe than penalties for a DUI arrest.
"A DUI results in a 90-day suspension, and even then you can get a 60-day restricted license to go to school or work," said TPD officer Rick Marcias, Wildblood's partner.
Wildblood said most judges think the suspension is too harsh. He said every year judges ask for more leeway and every year the request is turned down by the state.
Friday night, a bouncer at Maloney's caught at least four UA students trying to get in with fake IDs.
Wildblood said employees at Maloney's are the best at spotting fake IDs.
Courtney Muse, the bouncer who caught the students, agreed.
"Lately, word's gotten out not to come here, but we usually catch between eight to nine a night," he said.
Businesses face fines and suspension of liquor licenses for serving to anyone under 21.
A second offense for trying to use a fake ID results in a year's suspension of a person's driver license.
Muse said although Maloney's keeps catching students with fake IDs, the students keep coming.
Police aren't always able to get to Maloney's right away, Muse said.
"Sometimes we'll confiscate them or we'll give it back and say 'Have a good night,'" he said.
Muse said he's gotten good at spotting fake IDs and knows what to look for.
Wildblood said bouncers are usually better at spotting IDs than police are.
"With some, it's hard to tell, but they see them every night and they know," he said.
Marcias said when a person is caught, police confiscate his or her ID and give the person a trial date.
Marcias said most people don't go to trial but go through a diversion program instead.
People caught with fake IDs can only go through the diversion program once. By going through the program, which costs more than $100, the charges against the person are dismissed.
Marcias said even if someone goes through the diversion program, they still get their license suspended.
"The biggest thing for these kids is the six months' driver license suspension," Marcias said.
Wildblood said the motivation for such laws could start at the federal level. He pointed out that cracking down on underage drinking is a priority at the top level. States that have tough underage drinking laws are rewarded with more money for highway construction and other related projects.
Marcias said many students will try to get out of the suspension by going to another state, but in some states the suspension transfers over.
Three UA students caught at Maloney's said they'd gotten the fake IDs in New York.
Another student was caught trying to use his older brother's ID.
The student said the ID was his and answered several questions, including one about his "younger brother."
Wildblood turned around and called the student by his "younger brother's name," and the student quickly answered.
Wildblood said he and Marcias are trained in finding people with fake IDs and have several tricks they use to catch people.
Marcias said, "We just try to throw them off, if they take time to answer a question they should know, we got them."
A 20-year-old from Phoenix was caught using her friend's ID Friday.
The 20-year-old said she hadn't known about the six-month suspension and thought it was harsh.
She said it was her first time trying to use a fake ID and that her 21st birthday was in two months.
Wildblood said he had once arrested someone for trying to use a fake ID who was two hours and 20 minutes away from his 21st birthday.
"He spent the night in jail; that's how serious we are," he said.
Wildblood said whether someone goes to jail or is released depends on many factors, including how busy police are, how cooperative the person is and if the person has previous charges.