The Fine Line: Can Bartenders Confiscate Fake IDs?

can bartenders confiscate fake IDs
Joe | Last Updated: August 19, 2023
I'm Joe, a veteran bartender with over a decade in the industry and a burning passion for mixing drinks.

When it comes to serving alcohol, bartenders have a legal and ethical responsibility to ensure that they only serve those who are of legal drinking age.

To do this, bartenders will often ask patrons for proof of ID, BUT, in an attempt to gain entry or purchase alcohol illegally, some patrons may attempt to use a fake ID.

Some of these IDs are clearly fake, whilst others may look legitimate. Nevertheless, this brings up an interesting question about the responsibility of bartenders.

Can bartenders confiscate fake IDs?

The answer to this question is not a straightforward one. This is why in this post, we’re going to take a deep dive into the legal and ethical obligations of bartenders when faced with this surprisingly common situation.

So sit tight as we take a closer look at the world of fake IDs and how to tackle them…

Can Bartenders Confiscate Fake IDs?

No, bartenders do not have any legal authority to confiscate fake IDs as they are not law enforcement officials, however, if a fake ID is identified, they should call the police department.

Regardless if the ID is fake or not, it’s not the bartender’s property and therefore they are unable to confiscate it, and if they do this could be theft on their part.

That said, some bartenders will proceed to confiscate fake IDs unlawfully under the impression that they have legal rights to do so, which could get them into a sticky situation if they’re not careful.

HOWEVER, laws and regulations around confiscating fake IDs vary depending on the state, with some states such as California permitting bartenders to seize identification that shows a person to be under the age of 21 or fake.

can bartenders confiscate fake ids
Image by John Blower

Under section 25659, a licensee, or his or her agent or employee may seize fake IDs so long as a receipt is given to the person from whom it was seized and the seized identification is given to the law enforcement that has jurisdiction over the premises within 24 hours.

If a bartender suspects that a customer is using a fake ID, they should refuse service and ask the person to leave immediately, and in some cases, call the police.

Once the police arrive they will deal with the individual accordingly, whether that is to confiscate the ID themselves or take legal action.

Using a fake ID is a felony that can lead to serious consequences from having to pay a hefty fine to serving time in jail.

What Do Bartenders Do With Fake IDs?

Whilst most bartenders are not authorized to confiscate fake IDs, it’s not uncommon for them to do so if the customer is trying to be served alcohol by presenting it.

Whether or not a bartender will confiscate a fake ID is going to depend on a number of factors including their knowledge of the law, the establishment, as well as the country or state they are located.

If the authorities are involved and the bartender has confiscated a fake ID, they will hand it over to the police immediately which may then be used to build a case against the individual who presented it.

In some cases, the bar may keep a record of the fake ID used which can help them recognize patterns and potentially help to prevent similar incidents in the future.

Is There A Law Around Fake IDs?

Yes, there are absolute laws around the use and possession of fake IDs with the specific laws and penalties varying from state to state, but possession of a fake ID is generally considered a criminal offense.

In most states throughout the US, it’s illegal to produce, sell, or possess a fake ID to purchase alcohol, enter a bar or nightclub, or engage in other activities that are restricted by age.

It’s also important to note that bartenders will have no sympathy for you if you’re caught with a fake ID, you put yourself and others at risk of harm so expect the full force of the law to come down on you if you’re caught.

Trying to fool an experienced bartender that deals with fake IDs on a weekly basis is not a good idea, and in my experience, almost all bartenders will confiscate it from you immediately and call the police.

What Happens If You Get Caught With A Fake ID?

Possession of a Fictitious ID is a criminal offense that can carry serious consequences depending on your state, including a fine of $430 – $2,560, community service, and up to one year in jail.

It can also have an effect on your real ID, which in most cases is a driving license. For example, you may have your driving license suspended for 30 days – 6 months.

In addition, you may become blacklisted from establishments in your area for extended periods meaning you’re barred from entering restaurants, bars, and other alcohol-serving establishments.

can bartenders confiscate fake ids
Image by Photo by Kenny Eliason

If you’re still in school, being caught with a fake ID can mean you face disciplinary action and you may be denied future opportunities or admission to certain programs.

Essentially, you DO NOT want to be caught with a fake ID, so if you’re considering using one, don’t.

Fake IDs are simply not worth the consequences that they come with, it’s best to wait until you’re of legal age to avoid all of these consequences and drink responsibly.

Wrapping Up

To sum up, NO, most bartenders do not have the legal authority to confiscate fake IDs from patrons, except in certain states such as California, Iowa, and others.

Whilst bartenders can’t legally confiscate fake IDs, many still do and then hand them over to the police department when they arrive.

Fake IDs are NOT worth the consequences that come with them, and using a friend’s ID or one that you know is expired instead is just as bad.

Keep in mind that bartenders are trained professionals that deal with people using fake IDs all of the time, so it’s almost impossible to get past them without being detected.

Getting caught with a fake ID opens you up to a whole world of punishments that are simply not worth it, so please don’t take the risk.

It’s not worth it.