Nineteen University students were arrested and charged with possession of a fake ID without any other alcohol related charges from Jan. 10 to Nov. 27 this year.
Of these students, some were pulled over for seatbelt infractions and subsequently arrested after an officer spotted a second ID in their wallet. Other students were arrested after losing a wallet which contained a fake ID.
Most arrests would have been ticketed offenses if the students did not have fake IDs.
Of these cases, 12 have gone to state court. The resulting verdicts varied, but only one student was charged with a fine. All other cases either went to a pretrial diversion program or motions were filed for nolle prosequi.
In pretrial diversion programs, defendants paid a fine, were issued hours of community service and paid a fee for a probationary officer.
Mo Wiltshire, a defense attorney in Athens, said the cost for taking a fake ID charge to court can vary on a case-by-case basis. He said there are different types of fake ID charges.
“What it’s going to cost them to be represented, that’s going to depend on which of several different fake ID possession they’ve been charged with,” Wiltshire said.
If a student has another person’s license and is using it to “get into bars,” Wiltshire said lawyer fees can range from $500 to $5,000.
If a case stays in municipal court, this cost decreases to a range of $500 to $1,500. Taking the case to state court, specifically with a jury trial, could cost $5,000 to $10,000 in lawyer fees.
He also said students can sometimes get a pretrial program without taking the case to court. A pretrial program lasts 12 months and usually costs $300 in addition to a $40 per month supervision fee, Wiltshire said.
Chief of University Police Jimmy Williamson said after a fake ID is found, the course of the case varies. Some cases end in plea deals, some in prosecution and some go to court.
“If the party feels like they haven’t done anything wrong or there’s an error on the police, sometimes they go to trial,” Williamson said. “Sometimes, in the interest of justice, in time things are null processed.”
The cases that ended in nolle prosequi, or not prosecuted, ended after defendants completed pretrial diversion programs or negotiated plea agreements.
According to court documents, one case was not prosecuted because “Although there was sufficient probable cause for the issuance of a warrant, the evidence was not sufficient to prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt.”
Williamson said it is important to remember laws regarding fake IDs are in place for a reason. Police officers are present to enforce the laws, but they cannot pick and choose which to enforce, he said.
“[Legislators] don’t make all of these laws and say ‘Enforce these, don’t enforce those,’” Williamson said. “We have discretion, and we use discretion in a number of situations, but in these situations there’s a domino effect.”
The domino effect is a person being caught with a fake ID and released without charges, who later overconsumes alcohol and potentially injures him/herself, Williamson said.
He also said no one should have a fake ID, and many arrests are made during routine traffic stops because people do not make intelligent decisions about where they are storing fake IDs.
“I don’t think you should have [a fake ID] right there where your driver’s license is so you can pick and choose which one to present to who you’re dealing with,” Williamson said. “The officers are going to see it…First, this could be avoided if you didn’t buy one. Number two, if you were smarter about where you conceal it, you probably wouldn’t get arrested either.”
No students were available for comment to The Red & Black.