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used false identification to purchase alcohol at least once in the previous 2 years (Schwartz et al., 1998). In another study, however, 28 percent of New York and 14 percent of Pennsylvania high school students and 59 percent and 37 percent of college students from those states, respectively, reported ever using false identification to purchase alcohol (Preusser et al., 1995). In a third study, nearly one-half (46 percent) of Virginia college students reported that they had ever used a false ID to purchase alcohol.

The reported use of false identification appears to be greater in urban areas and in states where enforcement is lax or penalties for purchasing alcohol, possessing alcohol, or using false identification are absent or minimal (Preusser et al., 1995). In Pennsylvania, where fines for using false identification were substantial ($500 fine and driver license suspension) and where purchase, attempted purchase, possession, and transportation of alcohol were prohibited at the time of the study, use of false identification was relatively infrequent. In contrast, in New York, where it was not illegal for a minor to possess or purchase alcohol and where the penalties for using false identification for purchase of alcohol were substantially less ($100 fine), use of false identification for alcohol purchase was more frequent.

Other factors also seem to be related to use of false identification for purchase of alcohol. In a survey of Virginia college students (Durkin et al., 1996), those who were members of fraternities or sororities were more likely to report use of false identification to purchase alcohol than other students (70 and 39 percent, respectively) and African American students were less likely to report use of false identification than students of other ethnicities (10 and 48 percent, respectively). False identification can be easily obtained in the United States through magazine advertisements and mail order or from acquaintances or friends who manufacture it (Schwartz et al., 1998). Use of false identification may increase as it becomes more easily available through the Internet. A recent search on the key words “novelty id,” for example, turned up 21 web sites offering falsified identification or templates for producing false identification. Electronic scanning is potentially an effective tool for verifying the validity of driver’s license IDs. Although it is premature to require universal use of this technology, due in part to resistance among some retailers because of the cost and perceived inconvenience (see National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2001), states should facilitate and encourage its use.

Recommendation 9-13: States should strengthen efforts to prevent and detect use of false identification by minors to make alcohol purchases. States should:

  • prohibit the production, sale, distribution, possession, and use of false identification for attempted alcohol purchase;

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