grey timberland boots Boulder police see spike in fake IDs
The most common form of a fake ID is actually a real identification card that’s being used by a different person. This kind of use is called an “in possession” ID and makes up about 75 percent of all fake ID cases in Boulder.
The second most common type of fake IDs are manufactured identification cards. These cards are printed at home using photo printers, or purchased online, and often include special holographic paper to simulate official seals.
Use of a fake ID card in Boulder is a municipal offense that carries fines of up to $500 and/or 90 days in jail. State law allows for fines of up to $1,000 and a maximum of one year in jail. Use of a fake government issued ID can also be charged as a felony. Beginning this week, Boulder County courts lowered the bond for people jailed on suspicion of the felony fake ID charge, from $1,500 to $200.
1,461 Number of fake IDs turned in to Boulder police in 2009
1,598 Number of fake IDs turned in to Boulder police in 2010
7 Number of tickets issued for using or possessing a fake ID in 2009
150 Number of tickets issued for using or possessing a fake ID in 2010
75 Number of businesses checked in Boulder police sting operations in 2009
83 percent Compliance rate among checked businesses in 2009
397 Number of businesses checked in Boulder police sting operations in 2010
87 percent Compliance rate among checked businesses in 2010
Boulder police ticketed a lot more people for trying to use fake IDs in 2010, and there was a spike in the number of ID cards confiscated by bars, restaurants and liquor stores.
A total of 1,598 fake IDs were turned in to Boulder police last year, representing a 9 percent increase over 2009.
And while more people got caught trying to pass a fake ID, police also held many more users responsible than in previous years by issuing 150 tickets. That’s up from just seven tickets issued in 2009, and it’s the most tickets issued in at least the last five years.
Carlene Hofmann, the alcohol enforcement officer for Boulder police, said the uptick in enforcement is due largely to a federal grant the department received last year.
Boulder police received about $45,000 from the Enforcing Underage Drinking Laws grant, which pays for enforcement and education campaigns. Hofmann said she’s using the money to spend more time going after users of fake IDs.
“A lot of times, they think they’re just doing this to get into a bar or to buy a sixpack . not realizing what that means,” she said. “Having possession of a forged government document is a felony.”
But Hofmann isn’t taking a heavy handed approach.
Instead, she’s giving college students the chance to learn from their mistake rather than face a potential felony conviction.
After police identify a person suspected of using a fake ID at a bar or liquor store, first time offenders are given the chance to contact Hofmann within a week of being caught. If they do, they’re eligible to participate in a restorative justice program offered by the City Attorney’s Office. They’re also charged under the least severe charge a municipal offense that carries fines of up to $500 and/or 90 days in jail.
But if first time offenders don’t own up to their mistake, Hofmann said, they’re either issued a misdemeanor state ticket or a felony summons.
Students who choose the restorative program and almost all of them do must go through alcohol classes, discuss their actions with a group of stakeholders and work to educate others about the harm of using fake IDs. In return, the city attorney drops the charges.
“In the beginning, students were very hesitant to contact me,” Hofmann said.
But now that word has gotten out about potentially serious charges going away through successful completion of the restorative justice program, Hofmann said students are starting to call her even before she begins her investigation.
Boulder code allows all establishments with a liquor license to confiscate suspected fake IDs, although it doesn’t require them to do so. Hofmann said most bars and liquor stores in Boulder do a good job of recognizing and reporting fake IDs.
The art of spotting fake IDs
Perhaps no one in Boulder has a nose for spotting a fake ID like Russ Wright.
The Liquor Mart doorman has collected more than 700 fake IDs in his seven years with the company. He’s become so adept at the subtle art that he’s even developed a course about detecting fraudulent driver’s licenses, passports and other forms of identification.
“There’s a lot of little nuances,” Wright said Friday as he checked an ID from a man who said he was visiting from Iowa.