San Luis Obispo Police Officer Joe Hurni patrols downtown San Luis Obispo Wednesday to Saturday evenings, responding to the five to 10 calls a night from bar staff downtown to determine whether an ID is fake or not.

Once an ID is confiscated by an agent or local law enforcement, it becomes part of an investigation and can be held for evidence to be used in a criminal or administrative proceeding, according to Alcohol Beverage Control’s (ABC) Public Information Officer John Carr. 

Hurni said bar staff usually give people the opportunity to walk away or have the police called if they believe the ID is fake. If the subject decides not to walk away without the ID and wait for the police, then they are at risk to receive a misdemeanor citation.

Hurni said he prefers to deal with each case at the lowest level possible, giving the individual a second chance to admit the ID in question is fake or that it is someone else’s ID. They would then receive a written warning instead of a citation. 

“If you lie about it, and we have to go through the whole process, you can be cited and arrested,” Hurni said. “It takes a lot of time, it takes time away from other things we could be doing, helping other people.” 

Possession of a fake ID is a misdemeanor. An individual will receive a citation that is  “arrest and release” with the signature on the citation. Release on citation is an option officers will take when handling low-level offenses. It means the individual will not be booked into jail after an arrest. Signing the citation is an agreement to show up in court at a later date, in lieu of being taken to jail. 

Hurni said a minor in possession of alcohol (MIP) can result in suspension of a driver’s license for at least one year, but that particular punishment does not apply to being in possession of a fake ID.  

If an individual is caught with a fake ID, they are faced with a penalty of a minimum $250 fine and/or 24-32 hours of community service. An individual may also be fined up to $1,000 and/or spend six months in county jail, according to the ABC website.

Experience industry management junior Jessie Guerra said she owned two copies of a fake ID for about two years. The now 21-year-old Guerra tried to use her California fake ID with a friend at Bull’s Tavern in downtown San Luis Obispo, when they were both taken at the door.

“We got pulled aside and the man basically gave us an ultimatum and was saying, ‘I’m going to ask you two questions. If you answer them incorrectly, I’m going to call the police on you,’” Guerra said. 

The bouncer questioned Guerra and her friend, asking if they had ever been arrested before and how old they truly were. Once they answered both questions honestly, the bouncer took the fake IDs and let them leave.

The ID included her real name and all of her real information, including her address. Guerra said she thinks she used the ID mostly at restaurants, upwards of 30 times. 

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Video by Lauren Kozicki

Hurni said he receives more calls for people trying to use fake IDs than people trying to use a “look-a-like’s” real ID. He added that “good fakes” are recognizable once someone is properly trained.

“When we contact people that are in possession of IDs that are real IDs but it’s not their actual ID, it can be a little more difficult obviously,” Hurni said.

Hurni said there is usually some indication it is not them whether it be the way they look, or if they do not know all the information on the ID.

When law enforcement seize a legitimate ID, they give it to DMV to then return it to the rightful owner. 

“It is a problem that we take seriously, but in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t necessarily require us to spend a lot of time investigating, and we don’t have a way to contact the actual ID holder,” Hurni said. 

Hurni said SLOPD meets with the bar staff members downtown at least once a year to go over the liabilities the bar may hold and what authority they have acting as agents on private property. 

In addition to bars collecting and confiscating ID cards, the California Fresh Market grocery store in San Luis Obispo had “Wall of Shame,” which was taken down Jan. 21. Assistant Manager Ricky Dering said there were “well over 50” fake ID cards posted on the wall. 

According to Dering, the IDs were accumulated over about a year and a half. 

Each cash register at California Fresh Market is equipped with a handbook including each state ID and what to look for in a fake ID. Dering said it is mandatory to ask anybody who does not appear to look older than 40 for identification. ABC sells materials to various businesses that teach employees what to look out for when handling IDs.

When a California Fresh Market employee confiscates a fake ID, Dering said they will call SLOPD and ask if they want the ID. SLOPD will typically decline, so their employees have to hold onto it, Dering said. The amount of fake IDs taken at California Fresh Market morphed into the “Wall of Shame.”

If an undercover cop were to catch a minor purchasing alcohol from California Fresh Market, Dering said ABC would be notified and the market would receive a fine of about $2,500.

California’s Business and Professions Code No. 25659 requires IDs to be taken if establishments have reasonable evidence the person attempting to purchase is under 21.

Both owning a fake ID and using somebody else’s ID can be considered fraudulent, which according to Hurni carry much more serious charges.

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