The use of fake ID’s to purchase alcohol is as common as the sun rising each morning. Minors never learn, and it’s only a matter of time before someone busts you with the goods. The penalties and consequences can be severe, and it’s never a good idea to be in possession of one.

So, can a bar confiscate my fake ID? Yes, in most cases they can. All 50 states have different laws regarding the confiscation of fake ID’s. When it comes to dispensing alcohol, bars and restaurants take their responsibilities seriously and will do whatever they can to root out all forms of false identification.

Some will argue that, regardless, “This ID is my property and you can’t take it.” Good luck with that. Personally, I have heard this many times as a bartender, and I simply say something like, “OK – let’s let the police decide. Do you want to call them – or should I?”

In order to eliminate some of the confusion on how states differ in what determines ID confiscation, I have decided to use the State of Iowa’s laws to further my points here.

I reference the State of Iowa, Alcoholic Beverages Division as a guide. Laws change all the time, so beware that some of these las and policies may change in the future.

First, let’s determine what constitutes a fake ID. Many people are confused about this, and believe that many forms of ID allow them to purchase alcohol.

What is Considered a Fake ID?

A Fake ID is considered a false identification document. That’s bad news for a minor that uses one to purchase alcohol. Many bars are now prosecuting people using fake ID’s – and with good reason.

Can a Bar Confiscate My Fake ID?

The penalties for serving alcohol to a minor are severe. Fines, suspensions, and even the loss of the liquor license can result if a bar knowingly, even unknowingly, serves a minor alcohol

All states have laws against the use of fake ID’s. Most consider any ID that contains false information by forgery or alteration to be fake, and have established strict laws to combat the practice.

In fact, penalties are becoming even more severe as under-age drinking has reached epic proportions.

Furthermore, anyone selling, producing, altering, and using a fake ID is subject to criminal penalty. In short, anything having to do with falsifying ID’s is bad news, and it gets worse if you attempt to use a fake ID to purchase alcohol.

What is Considered a Valid ID

First of all, let’s look at what constitutes a valid ID. Most bars and restaurants will have some sort of ID ‘Guide’ that displays pictures of valid state ID’s, passports, and military ID’s. It’s a handy sort of thing to have around, and I have used these guides many times.

What about ID’s in my state? Bartenders better know these backwards and forwards – not good for sneaky minors.

States may differ on some types of ID’s that they’ll accept, but most are on the same page. Below is a list of ID’s that are, generally speaking, determined to be valid:

  • State Driver’s License or Non-Operator ID
  • Out-of-State Driver’s License or Non-Operator ID
  • U.S. Passport
  • U.S. Military ID or Veteran ID
  • Tribal ID’s

Some states may accept other forms of ID’s, but that’s unusual. Passports from other countries are acceptable as well as valid ID’s from Canada. Bars and restaurants usually have some sort of guide on hand for these types of ID’s as it’s not worth taking a chance.

Types of Fake ID’s

Any type of ID can be altered and falsified. With today’s advent of ID security features, it’s getting harder – but forgers are finding new ways to circumvent the process.

Can a Bar Confiscate My Fake ID?

3-D printers, scanners, photoshop – you name it, counterfeiters will use every means at their disposal to ‘fine tune’ an ID.

Any ID can be altered. The key is to understand what your state does to minimize the counterfeit process. Holograms, raised printing, laser engraving, and overlapping data are all ways to minimize the falsifying of ID’s.

Some fake ID’s have been altered so well that even an experienced bartender has a hard time distinguishing the real one from the fake one. I wrote a very informative post on the different ways to spot fake id’s that you might wish to read.

Can Bartenders Really Take My ID?

Yes, they can. In the State of Iowa, at the time of this writing, if a bartender reasonably believes that someone has presented a fake ID – they are allowed to confiscate it.

This includes any ID that appears to be falsified or altered. In addition, if it appears that the ID does not belong to the person presenting it they can also grab it.

Iowa, like most other states, must then turn the ID over to the local police within 24 hours of confiscation. The bar must also provide written documentation of the incident, and give the individual a receipt with the time and date of the confiscation.

Following the above procedures allows the bar to avoid being criminally or civilly liable for the seizure of the license. This is good policy, and as long as physical force is not used the bar is most likely in the clear.

I’m no stranger to the confiscation of ID’s and have probably confiscated 100’s throughout the years. I take no prisoners. Fake ID’s put my job in jeopardy, and I have zero tolerance for them. I know that the vast majority of bartenders, servers, and bouncers feel the same way.

What If I Use Someone Else’s ID?

Same as above – you’re in trouble. The ID is not yours. You are falsely misrepresenting yourself as another person. It’s just as bad as having an altered ID card, and the penalties are just as severe. But, it hasn’t been altered, so it’s not fake you say? Good luck telling a police officer that.

And what about the person who’s ID you are using? Are they in trouble? Maybe. Did they provide you with the ID? Did you steal or ‘find’ the ID somewhere? The authorities will certainly ask you these questions if you’re confronted.

They may even run a check on the ID and give the real person a call. Or show up at their door. Think that’s going too far? Think again, as I have seen this scenario played out.

Will I Go to Jail for Using a Fake ID?

Maybe. Are you being belligerent? Violent? Verbally abusive? If so, then you have a good chance of getting a ticket – or going directly to jail. I’ve seen it happen.

But, really, why take the chance? If you’re a minor and wish to drink alcohol – that’s your business, and there are other ways to do it besides falsifying an ID card and trying to get into a bar. Yeah, I know. Your friends do, why not you? Any way you look at it – it’s a risk. Are you willing to take that risk?

In my opinion, if a bartender confiscates your knowingly fake ID – accept it and get out of dodge. There is no point in arguing. You make think that he can’t take it from you – but guess again. The problem is, what are they going to do with that ID? You’re probably going to sweat it out for a few weeks.

Bars don’t fool around. Many people, like myself, take it personally. You simply don’t care that you’re putting my job in jeopardy. You’re oblivious to the fact that the bar can lose its license. Bartenders have no sympathy for people like you – and you can take that to the bank.

At almost every place I have worked at, we confiscated fake ID’s with no questions asked. You’re not getting it back, and if you insist – we’ll probably call the police. Experienced bartenders can spot fakes rather easily, so that minor altering job you did yourself will probably get you busted.

Final Thoughts on Fake ID’s

Don’t use an altered ID to purchase alcohol. It’s just not worth it. Using someone else’s ID is just as bad, and the penalties can be severe. Bartenders, servers, and bouncers can confiscate your ID, so be prepared to suffer the consequences.

And what happens if you’re a minor, you were drinking in a bar, and you get in an accident while driving home? You’re screwed. If there’s injuries or property damage, you’re probably going to jail. And, you put the bar in a very bad position.

Be aware that bars and restaurants are very well aware of minors trying to purchase alcohol in their establishment – and it’s hard to fool an experienced bartender. Although it’s not illegal to have another person’s ID in your possession, you better be able to explain it.

Related Bartending Topics

Can I serve alcohol if I’m underage? Yes, you can – in most states. There are three or four states that require a person to be 21 years old – regardless if you are a bartender or server. Check your state laws as they constantly change. If underage, there must be an adult, 21 or over, on the premises supervising the serving of alcohol.

Can I sue the bar if they take my valid ID? Maybe – but that’s for a competent attorney to decide. It better be valid, or you’re opening yourself up to all kinds of repercussions. It’s always good to have another form of ID on hand to eliminate the entire legal mess.