Crackdown on bogus booze IDs

Crackdown on bogus booze IDs
County Liquor Control Board kicks off two new programs

The Aegis
Posted 9/25/09

Anyone who is underage and planning on buying alcohol or going to a bar in Harford County is being encouraged to think twice.

The Harford County Liquor Control Board is cracking down on underage drinkers with two new programs: Bogus = Busted and Cops in Shops.

The programs, in addition to regular inspections and compliance tests performed by an underage cadet, are aimed at trying to educate and help licensees in Harford County.

“The liquor board is trying to give the licensees the tools and knowledge to recognize fake and fraudulent forms of identification to prevent underage drinking,” Chief Inspector Charlie Robbins said. “We are showing merchants that we are trying to protect them and not here to bust them every time.”

Since the beginning of the year, Robbins said he has received from various licensees about 125 real Maryland IDs and another 30 real out-of-state IDs that had been confiscated from suspected underage buyers.

Robbins said those 155 IDs are real IDs, but were most likely being used by someone other than the person on the license. He said the ones from Maryland have been returned to the MVA.

Robbins said he has also received about 40 fake IDs confiscated by store owners and bouncers.

He said some of the fake IDs are being used for training, but most have been turned over to police for investigation.

Bogus = Busted

The liquor board, in conjunction with the Bel Air Police Department and Harford County liquor licensees, has launched a program to catch people using bogus IDs to try and buy alcoholic beverages.

Since Aug. 4, the program has been carried out on three different evenings in Bel Air and resulted in five minors being criminally charged. Use of a bogus ID is a crime punishable with a $500 fine and/or 60 days in jail.

“Bogus identification is deemed to be any type of identification which is not their own; altered or fraudulently made types of identification,” according to a press release from the liquor board.

For the program, Robbins and members of the Bel Air Police Department in plainclothes stand at the door with the bouncers at various bars in Bel Air.

When a bouncer gets a questionable ID or one that is clearly bogus, the ID is handed over to the inspector or the police and the user is pulled aside.

If the ID is determined to be someone else’s ID or a fake, police immediately handcuff the minor and write a criminal citation before the minor is released.

For using a fake ID, a minor is written a citation for false documentation. For those minors who use a real ID that is not theirs, the citation is written for the misrepresentation of age.

“The ones who are 21 have nothing to worry about,” Robbins said.

Without the use of police, Robbins said the minors wouldn’t be handcuffed or written a criminal citation.

Robbins said he is only able to give civil citations, which do not include any possible jail time.

At the 2010 pre-session meeting Sept. 16 between local legislators and the liquor board, board Chairman Donald Hess said word of minors being handcuffed on the spot will travel around the county and may prevent other minors from even trying to enter a bar.

Hess praised the Bogus = Busted program because he said not all of the punishment should be assumed by the licensees and any underage person trying to use a fake ID get alcoholic beverages should be held responsible.

“We are letting them know that if they are caught, they will be charged,” Hess said in a press release.

Cops in Shops

Unlike Bogus = Busted, the Cops in Shops program is directed at liquor stores or establishments which sell alcohol for off-site consumption.

The purpose of the Cops in Shops program, which is being conducted all over the county, is to provide training for the licensees and their employees in recognizing fake and fraudulent IDs.

The program also allows Robbins and a deputy from the Harford County Sheriff’s Office to monitor the licensed locations for illegal alcohol transactions, which often occur in parking lots.

Robbins said the licensee of the establishment is notified when Cops in Shops will be at the business and is explained the purpose of the program.

Robbins and a deputy from the sheriff’s office then sit in the parking lot of the business for an hour to see if anyone who is old enough to legally buy alcoholic beverages is making purchases for those too young to buy them.

Robbins said if he sees someone who is underage give money to someone who is 21 to buy alcohol, he will make sure a sale does not take place.

Robbins said he and the deputy then speak with both the 21-year-old and the underage person about the incident.

“This is mostly for education and prevention,” Robbins said. “We are trying to stop 21-year-olds from buying for those who are underage.”

Depending on the situation, Robbins said he can write a civil citation or the deputy can write a criminal citation.

For the 21-year-old, the citation would be for purchasing alcohol for underage consumption. For the underage person, the citation would be for underage possession.

New partnership

Since the beginning of the year, the liquor board has also begun using the Harford County Sheriff’s Office for conducting compliance tests with underage cadets, instead of the Maryland State Police.

In addition to using cadets from the sheriff’s office, the liquor board has also welcomed a new inspector.

Danielle Markette, 30, a former Maryland State Police officer, will be working two to three days a week as an inspector for the county.

As for the partnership with the liquor board, the sheriff says it’s overdue.

“I think it’s a great partnership,” Sheriff Jesse Bane said at a pre-2010 legislative session meeting between local legislators and the liquor board.

“The deputies are now more aware of where the violations are occurring,” he said.