Fake ID users risk arrest, penalties
Published: Monday, September 24, 2001
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01
Despite the efforts of University administrators and police, the issue of fake IDs runs rampant through the Boston College campus year after year. Despite the fact that it is an illegal activity, the distribution and use of false identification is a common occurrence at this school and many others.
Many students use fake IDs, often without fully understanding the potential consequences of their actions. Although the vast majority of students who use false identification never end up getting in trouble, those who are apprehended find themselves ensnared in a process that can include punishments from the University, the courts and the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV).
“Students are frequently caught as a result of the Boston police department’s ‘Cops in Shops’ program, in which officers stake out liquor stores in the vicinity of the school,” said D. Michael Ryan, associate dean for student development. “Others are picked up during police raids on bars and clubs, and some even accidentally show their fraudulent ID to a police officer or they drop their wallet, containing a fake ID, and someone picks it up and turns it in.”
Many times, the proprietor of the business, whether it is a bar, a club or a liquor store, confiscates the fake or borrowed ID and fills out an affidavit, which is often sent to the school, the RMV and sometimes the Boston or Newton police departments.
According to an article that appeared in The Boston Herald on September 10, police in Allston-Brighton arrested over 50 minors in the previous week for liquor-related offenses, including 16 who will be summoned to court. The students were from several local colleges, including Boston College and Boston University.
Jack Dunn, director of public affairs, said that BC’s own record is improved thus far this fall. “Boston police have reported that the number of BC students arrested this fall for underage drinking and through the ‘Cops in Shops’ false ID program is down significantly from previous years,” he said.
But for the students who are arrested, serious consequences may lay ahead.
“There is no rhyme or reason to whether it goes to the Registry or to the courts,” said Andrew Padellaro, legal counsel for the Mass. RMV. “Sometimes the owner of an establishment that has confiscated an ID will send it directly to the Registry rather than to the courts, but he or she can choose either route.”
Boston and Newton police have the same options as far as where they send the perpetrator’s information.
If the case goes to the courts and the individual is convicted of creating or possessing a fraudulent government document (a felony conviction), he or she faces as many as five years in prison and $10,000 in fines. But court convictions for such an offense are quite rare, due in large part to the fact that judges often are reluctant to burden young adults with a felony conviction.
“The majority of the court cases are thrown out,” said Ryan.
If the suspect is convicted, the case goes to the department of motor vehicles, which is mandated by law to suspend the person’s driving privileges in Massachusetts for one year. If the individual holds a Massachusetts license, the license is suspended for one year as well. People from other states run similar risks.
“One common misperception is that if you don’t have a Massachusetts license, you’re all set,” said Padellaro. “That’s wrong. You lose the right to drive in Massachusetts regardless of where you’re from, and if you’re from another state it too is notified, and often that state revokes driving privileges as well.”
Even if the case is thrown out in court, Padellaro warned that the individual is not out of trouble.
“If there is no court conviction, the information still ends up with us, and we hold our own hearing,” said Padellaro. “If the person is found guilty by the Registry, we treat it the same way as we treat a court conviction, except the punishment is revocation of driving privileges and license for six months as opposed to a year. The person’s home state is notified in this instance as well.”
People whose driving privileges are revoked must pay a $300 reinstatement fee to the Registry, in addition to the other penalties.
“If you end up at the Registry because you were using a fraudulent ID, you’re going to be in serious trouble,” said Padellaro. “And it’s not a rare occurrence. When the Registry began its aggressive program against fake IDs, we received notice of a couple per month. Now, it’s well over 100 per month, and that’s the direct result of increased activity by the police and business owners.”
The courts and RMV are not the only authorities fake ID users face, though Boston College has its own system for punishing students caught possessing or attempting to acquire fraudulent identification.
According to ODSD, the possible sanctions for possession, conspiring to obtain or use of a fake ID is a $100 fine, deferred housing suspension until age 21, community service and University suspension for repeat offenders. The punishment for manufacturing fake IDs is suspension from the university for one year, a $500 fine and housing dismissal. With the exception of community service, these penalties come in addition to those imposed by the courts or the Registry.
“If you come to see me [for a fake ID offense] you get the fine, and you might get community service to be performed in conjunction with any court-ordered community service,” said Ryan. He explained that students caught with fake IDs are placed on probationary status, so if the student is caught a second time, he or she is suspended from the University.
He added that students who are found attempting to acquire a fake ID are treated in the same manner as those who are caught in possession of one. Students are frequently caught when their names show up on computer databases confiscated from distributors of fake IDs.