There are several policies that address the use of false identification cards by minors. Specific prohibitions against the use of such cards to purchase alcohol are usually found in the ABC codes in each State. Associated policies include the following: (1) prohibitions against lending or transferring false identification cards for the purpose of purchasing alcohol; (2) prohibitions against the manufacture or sale of false identification cards; (3) exemptions for alcohol retailers who mistakenly rely on apparently valid identification cards that are false; and (4) the rights of retailers to confiscate false identification cards.

Though all of these policies are relevant in deterring underage purchases of alcohol, we focused our research on two: (1) prohibiting the use of false identification by minors to purchase alcohol; and (2) prohibiting the lending or transferring of false identification cards to others. We determined that these two provisions were important to law enforcement in deterring underage purchases and were also the most feasible in terms of conducting the necessary legal research.

Prohibitions against the manufacture or sale of false identifications are also important to law enforcement, but according to secondary sources, many sales of false identifications are made in interstate commerce via the Internet. It is unclear to what extent a State has authority to regulate these sales. Because this rapidly developing policy area would require extensive review of the case law in each State, we determined that it was not feasible to analyze this area for this project.

The exemption for retailers who mistakenly rely on false identification cards is a provision more closely associated with illegal sales than with illegal purchases. The existence of this provision in a State will have no effect on the likelihood of a minor using a false identification card for his or her purchase. Thus, we did not include this provision in our research.

Finally, although the right of a retailer to confiscate false identification cards might reduce illegal sales by removing the confiscated IDs from circulation, this provision does not appear to increase the likelihood of detection or prosecution, and secondary sources suggest that false identifications are readily available (and therefore easily replaced after confiscation). Consequently, we did not include this provision in our research.

It is worthwhile to note that State statutes may prohibit false statements and/or the use of false identification cards. Interviews with State alcohol law enforcement officials confirm our legal analysis: a statute that prohibits the use of false statements includes by inference the use of a false identification card. In other words, presenting a false identification card is equivalent to making a false statement. We have concluded that it is not necessary to distinguish between “false statement” and “false identification” language in the statutes. A minor who makes a false statement regarding age but does not use a false identification card is most likely to be prosecuted for an illegal attempted purchase whether or not the false identification statute encompasses the use of both false statements and false identification cards.

The chart below indicates that all 50 States and the District of Columbia prohibit the use of false identification cards by minors, and the majority make lending and transferring identification cards illegal as well.

Use of False Identification Cards

(click to view Table)