Two Bowdoin students were charged with forgery after they reportedly attempted to buy alcohol with fraudelent IDs on Saturday night. A clerk at Rite Aid suspected that the two Maine driver's licenses the students produced were fake, and contacted the Brunswick Police Department (BPD). The officer who arrived on the scene detained the two students in the parking lot and confiscated the IDs, which were of high quality and allegedly purchased online. The police have also charged a third student, whose ID was seized at Rite Aid in January.
The two students apprehended Saturday were also charged with possession of alcohol by minors. In the past, the police have opted for the charge of possessing a fraudulent ID card, rather than the criminal offense of possessing a forged document.
Randy Nichols, director of safety and security, sent a campus-wide email Saturday night informing students of the charges.
"The reason, that very evening, that I put that student-wide email out is because I wanted our students to receive fair warning that this is a change," Nichols said. "Students that are caught by the police are charged with a crime rather than with a civil infraction. Up to this point, BPD has been issuing summonses for the civil infraction," Nichols said.
According to Maine state law, a person is guilty of forgery "if, with the intent to defraud or deceive another person or government" that person "falsely makes, completes, endorses or alters a written instrument, or knowingly utters or possesses such an instrument."
Many online companies like ID Chief require authentic signatures from those purchasing false IDs, which constitutes forgery.
Marc Hagan, deputy chief of the BPD, said this case would not necessarily be used as a precedent in future cases, since there are various forms of false identification. "It depends on what is done to the license. You can have a real ID and change it or a license from Kentucky that is totally fake," Hagan said.
Some students questioned the motives behind the decision to use the forgery charge, wondering if the police were making an example of the three students.
"I think charging them with forgery is quite extreme, but sometimes in order to get out a message you need to use these kinds of methods," said first year Noorissa Khoja.
When asked why the police chose the forgery charge instead of the civil infraction, Hagan said the police were simply enforcing the law, since "to falsely make a written instrument would be possession of a forged instrument."
Nichols said that the decision to use the charge of forgery came with the blessing of the district attorney. He also warned that law enforcement is cracking down on fake IDs through other avenues.
"The clerks around town are becoming more aware of these IDs. These retail outlets have a lot at stake if they don't take due precautions to prevent underage sales of liquor," Nichols said. "I think our students should expect that the chances of getting caught with a fake ID are increasing."
"The state of Maine offers training to show local liquor stores what fake identification looks like," said Hagan, who added that state law requires any store clerk who suspects that an ID is false to alert the police. For some students, purchasing a false ID is not worth the risk of receiving a criminal record.
"I'm less likely to use a fake ID because I'm scared of the consequences and the action taken against me," said Adrienne Chistolini '15. Bowdoin security officers will continue to address the problem of fake IDs as they always have, through internal disciplinary action.
"I don't want our students leaving Bowdoin with a criminal record. They should be leaving with a diploma and the great wide world ahead of them," Nichols said. "Keep in mind the consequences of committing these violations and decide whether or not it's worth the risk."