There is an old joke that University of Chicago students get fake IDs so that they can get into the library. Perhaps this is an overstatement: one student said she wanted a fake ID to get into political events.
An inquiry into the market of fake IDs reveals a community of underage students with mixed, if not apathetic, feelings toward their fudged, and older, identities.
All the people interviewed by the Maroon said they had received their fraudulent IDs in their hometowns, granting illicit access to booze, nude bars, andfor those under 18tobacco products.
Many other students emphasized that alcoholthe main reason for having a fake ID among students hereis so accessible that an off-color New Jersey license is simply not needed. Because of this, students added, that fake IDs are not as rampant as at other universities.
"If I want alcohol, I can just go to a party or have an upperclassman buy it for me," said one first-year in the College.
A third-year agreed. "I never got a fake ID because I never needed one. It's just easier to have someone else buy me drinks."
Whatever ease there is in obtaining alcohol around campus is matched by the degree of difficulty in finding someone around campus to supply a fake ID.
Most students, without an intimate knowledge of Chicago, do not know where to buy them. "I've heard that there is a place in Hyde Park where you can get fake IDs but I don't know where it is," lamented a second-year.
"I got mine from a friend at home," said one first-year.
Students who come from New York or Los Angeles, cities that seem to be teeming with counterfeit drivers licenses, have a much higher concentration of fakes.
"There is a street in New York, where it is impossible to not get a fake ID," a first-year in the College said. "Everyone I know from New York has one. They are ridiculously easy to get there."
Getting a fake ID is harder than using it. Students with fake IDs here recall that establishments of forbidden pleasure in Chicago simply just don't card that hard.
"I show my ID and they let me in, no questions asked," a second-year said. The unlucky ones who were accused of having a fake ID said that they were not served by the bartender or were not let into the club.
Another student told of friends who have been caught in their lies. "My friends use their fakes all of the time," a second-year in the College said. "They've been caught a few times and each time they were asked to leave the bar or club. They never got into any serious trouble."
Although students say they are able to avoid serious punishment, the penalties for using fake ID in Chicago are extremely harsh. According to Sergeant John Owen of 21st District, using a fake ID breaks two laws. Using someone else's drivers license breaks the Illinois Identification Card Act, which forbids the unlawful use of an ID card, such as using the ID card of an older sibling to buy alcohol. Breaking this law is a misdemeanor and can be punished with a minimum of a $500 fine or 50 hours of community service.
Also, the Fictitious/Unlawfully Altered Identification Card Act involves possessing a fake ID card and, with its felony status, carries a minimum sentence of a year in prison.
Store and restaurant owners, for their part, face stiff penalties for selling alcohol to minors. "The first time we're caught selling liquor to a minor, we get shut down for 24 hours, have to pay a $2,500 fine, and our liquor license goes up for review," said Dan, the bartender for The Cove Lounge and Bar.
Steve Pressman, assistant manager of Lucky Strike, said that being caught three times selling alcohol to underage drinkers would "shut him down forever."
As a result of these stiff penalties, bars and clubs have taken increasingly firm steps to ensure that minors do not get away with using fake IDs. Most bars, like the Cove, have bouncers check IDs and only accept certain types of them.
"I only take passports and U.S. driver's licenses that are in good condition," said Dan. "I will not accept foreign driver's licenses."
Pressman has an even more effective method of checking IDs: he keeps a University of Chicago police officer at the bar every night, from 6 p.m. until closing.
"If I think an ID is fake, I give it to the officer who handles the case from there," he said. "I think that's the main reason why I've never really had a problem."
In spite of the legal implications of their actions, students with fake IDs will continue to use them. After reminding one first-year of the consequences of being caught with a fake ID, she said that she would still use her card.
"I've never heard about anyone getting caught, so I'm not going to worry about it."