News 6 talks to UCF police about penalties for bogus IDs

By Louis Bolden - Investigative Reporter, Donovan Myrie - Investigative/Special Projects Producer

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - It’s the start of the school year, and a ritual for many underage college students around the U.S. is in full swing. 

Buy your course books. 

Decorate your dorm room. 

Order a new fake identification to buy alcohol.

Parents are probably dismayed at that last item on the checklist, but this is the new reality. The Internet has made getting a fake ID a lot easier, and those IDs have gotten a lot better and a lot harder to spot.

In a continuing Q&A series, News 6 spoke with University of Central Florida Police Department Cmdr. James Mangan about fake identifications on campus. Mangan explained what could end up happening to someone if they’re caught with a bogus ID The punishment can be quite harsh and life altering.

WKMG: How often do you see people using fake IDs? 

Mangan: So when we do are SNAP patrols, which are Sector II Noise and Alcohol Patrols, with Orange County, we see it on a regular basis. You know it's kind of like fish in a barrel. We'll go in there and find underage drinking and a lot of times the fake IDs.

WKMG: Are SNAPs like a raid? Do you walk in and shut the place down?

Mangan: We'll go into local bars and we'll do underage drinking checks. And it's not shutting it down. We’ll send officers in in pairs, and if they see somebody with an alcoholic beverage that looks under the age of 21, they'll pull them out and ID them.

WKMG: What's happens to them? It's a misdemeanor charge, right?

Mangan: Possession of a fake ID -- if it's more than just the date that's altered -- is a felony. So they can get a felony charge that will affect them for years to come. The actual crime of underage possession of alcohol is a misdemeanor. So you're committing a felony to commit a misdemeanor. For that beer, you can end up being a felon.

WKMG: Just to clarify, so if someone just alters the birthday, it’s a misdemeanor?

Mangan: Yes. If you alter the driver's license number, your name, anything like that, then you're in possession of an altered ID and that's a felony. Possessing (an ID with) anything other than just the birth date being altered, it is a felony.

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WKMG: Do you think most kids know that? Because an 18-, 19- or 20-year-old getting a felony on their record is a big deal. 

Mangan: It is. And we do educational pieces, especially at the beginning of the semester. Last year, we did a "fake to felon" campaign where we educate the students. Basically, do you want to make that call to your parents that you're charged with a felony for underage possession because you had the fake ID?

WKMG: And how often are they charged?

Mangan: In most cases, it's a charge that is added on because they arrested for other charges. Officers will generally try to educate and give warnings or student affairs referrals for first offenses. But every time that you possess a felony fake ID, you're able to be charged by the officer. 

WKMG: This is something that's not new. It's been going on for a long time. Are kids being deterred by it, or is it happening even more so?

Mangan: I won't say that it is happening more, but it's no longer the 18-or 19-year-old that is using a highlighter or a magic marker and changing their birthday. Now they're ordering the high-class high-quality fake IDs over the Internet. And that's making our job a little bit more difficult. 

WKMG: They're becoming a lot more sophisticated and more difficult to spot. Do you have certain officers who are trained in what to look for, especially if you have IDs from different states?

Mangan: All our officers receive training in driver's licenses and a small percentage of UCF is actually from out of state. So when we go to the clubs and every I.D. that we're getting is from out of state, that's telling us “Hey, this is probably going to be a fake I.D.” But either way, whether it's a Florida I.D. or an out of state ID. we’ll run the driver's license to make sure it's valid and then we'll also confirm with other identifying information to make sure that person belongs to that I.D. 

WKMG: Can you quantify how many arrests you make or how many of these ID you confiscate?

Mangan: We confiscate hundreds of these IDs a year. The arrest risk part of it-  ike I said it's usually an educational thing for our officers. We have made arrests recently for that, but the preferred method would be to educate the person and send them to the student conduct process.

WKMG: Do you keep track of whom you've given warnings to?

Mangan: So everybody that we come in contact with and we send them through student conduct or if we give them a warning for the fake IDs but give them a citation or a notice to appear for underage drinking, then that is tracked. When our officers come in contact with that person again, then we'll know that they've already been warned. And we've had times where we've ID’d somebody and they said "You've already taken my fake ID last time."

WKMG: Is it happening less, would you say? And do you ever think you will completely do away with the problem?

Mangan: I don't think it's happening less. I don't necessarily think it's happening more. I just think that the high-quality IDs are easier to get, so that maybe lets them keep it in their possession longer. When I first started law enforcement, a lot of times the fakes were so bad that the bartenders or the bouncers at the club would just confiscate them and throw them out.
 
WKMG: What would you say to students if they're reading this? 

Mangan: I would say that it's not worth the felony on your record. If you're a felon, that's a box that you always have to check when you're applying for a job, applying for a federal financial aid. It's not worth the risk. 

WKMG: It really could affect the rest of your life. 

Mangan: Absolutely.

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