Fake IDs – Rarely a Standalone Offense
As a student under the age of 21 attending one of Pennsylvania's many fine colleges or universities, it may seem that getting a fake ID is an easy way be able to socialize with friends in bars and clubs that have a 21-and-over policy or to buy alcohol for on- and off-campus parties. And while realistic-looking (but fake) IDs may be easy to find, having and using one can result in serious consequences for you – consequences that can affect both your future employment prospects and your present status as a student.
Of course, in many cases, students who are charged with having fake ids are also charged with possessing or consuming alcohol; after all, that is probably the main reason why students get fake IDs in the first place, and if they're caught with the one they're very often caught with the other. That said, if you're under 21 in Pennsylvania, it's illegal to have false identification that says you're 21 or older, whether or not you are using it to buy alcohol.
Crime Detection on Pennsylvania Campuses
It may come as a surprise that many colleges and universities in Pennsylvania have their own fully-accredited police forces, with the same powers to arrest and charge as any other police. For example, Temple, Drexel, and University of Pennsylvania, all located in Philadelphia, each has their own police, as does Penn State. And schools that don't have police all have public safety officers who work very closely with local police, which of course, have the power to arrest and charge students.
In addition, we also live in an increasingly-surveilled world. Many colleges have comprehensive video camera networks, both outdoors and within buildings, that are monitored 24/7 to help protect the safety of students, faculty, and staff and are used to maintain security in classrooms, labs, offices, and dormitories. On top of this, people regularly video record misbehavior in all types of public and private venues and will share those with the public and authorities. In short, if there is any unusual activity going on in or around any campus building, it's likely someone is noticing. And if campus police or security ask you to show them your ID, they actually have the advantage over local police of being able to cross-check what you give them against school records; so if you hand a fake ID to a campus police or security, it's possible you've just admitted to violating the law.
Pennsylvania Fake ID Crimes, On- and Off-Campus
Pennsylvania law prohibits anyone under the age of 21 from having identification that says they are 21 or older, using a fake ID to attempt to buy alcohol (including using someone else's ID), and from making a fake ID for themselves or for others.
Penalties for violating any of these laws can be severe. For anyone aged 18-20, Just having a fake ID that says you're 21 or over can get you a fine of up to $500, with the fine being mandatory if it's your second or further offense. Things are worse if you are caught making, altering, or selling a fake ID; if you're 18 or older (as most students are), you're looking at a mandatory minimum fine of $1000 for a first offense and $2500 for subsequent offenses. And while the first offense for having a fake ID is treated as a lower-level summary offense, repeat offenses are third-degree misdemeanors. Making or selling a fake ID is an even more serious second-degree misdemeanor, even for a first offense. What many students don't realize is that having a misdemeanor conviction on your record can seriously affect your future ability to get a job, rent an apartment, or secure a loan.
There's more: in addition to any fine that the court may impose, you may also be required to participate in a Department of Health-approved educational, intervention, or counseling program at your (or your parent's) expense.
Of course, these laws apply whether or not you violate them on or off campus. When you're on campus, it may feel as though you're in a different world, but the same laws apply, and, as is explained below, there can be even more painful consequences at school that result from violating Pennsylvania law than what a judge may impose in court.
Defending Pennsylvania Student Fake ID Charges
If you find yourself charged with any fake ID crime in Pennsylvania – whether it's simply having one, using one to buy or trying to buy alcohol, or making or selling one – you are potentially in serious trouble and should not try to fight the charges by yourself. Because most fake ID cases involving college students also include charges relating to underage possession of (or an attempt to purchase) alcohol, you may find that you're facing several charges at once. In these kinds of situations, police and prosecutors are not your friends; their job is to enforce the law, and very often, where underage alcohol consumption is involved, they will do their best to make sure that you pay as serious a penalty as possible, if only so your case can be used to deter others from trying to do the same thing.
That said, prosecutors do have considerable discretion when it comes to pressing charges against students accused of a fake ID or other crimes. Remember, it remains their burden to prove your guilt, and it's not unusual for there to be legitimate questions about whether the evidence against you was gathered in violation of your rights or whether the way the prosecution wants to use it in court against you is consistent with Pennsylvania's rules of evidence. A skilled attorney can look at the prosecution's case, find the problems with it, and use those holes to your benefit.
Joseph D. Lento has substantial experience representing students and others accused of a fake ID and alcohol-related crimes in Pennsylvania. He knows how the Pennsylvania court system works, understands how prosecutors approach their cases and will be the skilled advocate you need to get you the best outcome for your particular situation. Again, this is not something you should face alone.
Pennsylvania College and University Fake ID Policies
As is the case with colleges and universities all over the country, Pennsylvania's schools have student honor or disciplinary codes that either explicitly or implicitly prohibit students from having, using, making, or selling fake IDs.
Drexel, for example, states that “Altering or possessing an altered identification card of any form (fake ID)” is a violation of the school's “Dishonesty/Falsification of Information Policy.” Penn State includes in its definition of “General Misconduct” the act of “Knowingly providing/presenting, creating, or possessing falsified or forged material, records, or documents or any intentional misrepresentation of fact to obtain or attempt to induce another to surrender a right, benefit, or property.”
Other Pennsylvania schools discuss their prohibitions on fake IDs in the context of underage alcohol use. Temple, for example, states that it is a violation of the school's code of student conduct “to possess and/or use false forms of identification to obtain alcoholic beverages.” The University of Pennsylvania similarly tells students that the school follows Pennsylvania law with respect to the sale and consumption of alcohol and notes that “It is a crime for any person under twenty-one years of age to possess an identification card falsely identifying that person as being twenty-one years of age or older, or to obtain or attempt to obtain liquor or malt or brewed beverages by using a false identification card.”
This means that if you are a student who has been charged by Pennsylvania police – whether campus police or local municipal authorities – with having, using, making, or selling a fake ID, you also risk being disciplined by your college or university for the exact same activity. While this may seem like “double jeopardy” – being punished twice for the same act – it is an unfortunate fact that you need to keep in mind when deciding how to resolve your situation. Even if you are able to convince the local police or prosecutors to drop the charges against you, it's entirely possible that you could still face a school disciplinary proceeding.
Pennsylvania Campus Fake ID Disciplinary Procedures
Every college or university in Pennsylvania has a set of procedures it follows for dealing with student misconduct, including cheating, destruction of school property, underage alcohol consumption, illegal drug use, and the like. As a general rule, these procedures do not provide students with the same protections as the rules that the government must play by when prosecuting citizens for violating the law.
At Temple University, for example, the Student Conduct Code describes a fairly elaborate set of procedures that the university uses for deciding and resolving student conduct complaints. Notably, no student is allowed to graduate if there are any unresolved charges pending against them. In addition, if matters progress to the stage where a Student Conduct Board Hearing is to take place, the Temple Student Conduct Code warns that “Formal rules of process, procedure, and/or technical rules of evidence, such as are applied in criminal or civil court, are not used in Student Conduct Board hearings.” This is not at all unusual and, in fact, is the norm for school disciplinary proceedings – your rights as a student are generally less protected than your rights as a citizen.
There is a wide range of sanctions typically possible in college and university disciplinary proceedings in Pennsylvania and elsewhere, ranging from verbal warnings that leave no stain on your record to written sanctions that become part of your file to suspension or even expulsion. It is thus vital if you have been charged with a student conduct code violation to secure the advice of an attorney who understands how these proceedings work and has experience representing students like yourself who find themselves caught up in them.
Joseph D. Lento has represented hundreds of students in school disciplinary proceedings in Pennsylvania as well as in schools all over the country. He understands the relatively informal nature of the process; the lack of protection for student rights; and the potential for bias or unfair decision-making when the proceedings are administered by faculty, staff, or even (at times) students who have little experience or training in dispute resolution.
Attorney Lento also understands what's at stake – and knows that even if your criminal case has been dropped or otherwise completely resolved in your favor, you may still face your school's disciplinary process. When he represents students charged with crimes such as using fake IDs in Pennsylvania, he understands that he needs to keep his eye on what may be two very different sets of issues: one, resolving the criminal matter in as favorable a way as possible, and two, doing the same with the school's disciplinary process.
Premier Pennsylvania Student Defense Attorney Available
If you are a student who has been charged with having, using, making, or selling a fake ID in Pennsylvania, you owe it to yourself, your future, and your family to get the best legal advice possible to help defend yourself against both the criminal charges and any school disciplinary proceeding that may result from those charges. Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm have the skills, knowledge, and experience necessary to help you to understand the criminal legal process and to defend your rights in that situation while at the same time keeping in mind that your Pennsylvania college or university may want to bring disciplinary action against you for the same reasons.
Because of his substantial experience representing students in your situation in so many other cases, Joseph D. Lento is uniquely positioned to help you resolve both the criminal charges against you and any disciplinary proceedings your college or university may bring. Don't try to face this kind of difficult situation by yourself. Call Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law firm today at 888.535.3686 or contact them online. You need an experienced advocate in your corner; Joseph D. Lento is there to listen and to help.