UofA: Fake ID’S, Criminal Justice, and Consequences

Many of you who are under twenty-one may have questions about what happens if you get caught with a fake ID at the University of Arizona I have a few observations and suggestions.

Typical Ways Students Get charged by the Police with Fake ID’s.

First, I want to talk about where and how people typically get caught. There are three basic ways that I see fairly often. One the one hand, I’ve had more cases than you might think where a student simply loses his wallet on campus, let’s say in the library, then gets a call from the University of Arizona Police Department to come pick it up at the main station. The student goes down, relieved, that he’s getting his wallet back, only to find that a police officer waiting for him. The officer has rifled through his wallet, finding the CAT card, but also a fake ID. What the student thought was going to be a good day turns into a bad one, when the officer begins to interrogate him, and then cites him or her with possession of a fake ID ARS § 28-3478, a crime in Arizona, a class one misdemeanor. Suddenly the student is involved in the criminal justice system, and has to go to criminal court.

On the other hand, I also see quite a few cases where police, sometimes from the Arizona Department of Liquor, purposely stop students as they walk out of convenience stores or supermarkets near campus. The police ask the students what’s in the bag, then obtain the fake ID the student, and an admission that it was used to by the alcohol with. The student is then cited with ARS 4-241(N) or (0), use of false ID to purchase liquor, a crime, and with ARS 4-244.9 Minor in Possession of Alcohol, also a crime.

Finally, I have seen too many cases where University Police, and other police, stop students for some other investigation—jaywalking if you can believe it—or breaking up a party– demand to see the student’s ID, and notice two licenses, or a suspicious license, poking out of the wallet. Sometimes these instances raise issues as to whether the search of the wallet, or the demand for ID was legal.


Second, I want to talk a little bit about consequences. Whether charged as ARS 29-3478, 4-244(N) or (O), or as 4-244.9, all are crimes in Arizona, which can result in a criminal record. A few observations about that.

Remember that in Arizona there is no expungement of most adult criminal records, so the criminal record is by and large indelible. While a fake ID misdemeanor is not by itself the crime of the century, it can nevertheless mar, or damage, an otherwise crime-free life. This concerns many students and parents, as it should.

Moreover, if the matter is charged as ARS § 4-241(N) or (O), in addition to a criminal record, if the person is convicted, the persons license to drive is suspended in Arizona for 6 months for a first offense, pursuant to ARS § 28-3309. This might come as a surprise to many people. I have seen Arizona MVD issue notices of suspension prior to conviction. So beware.

Court Procedure

Third, I want to talk to you a little bit about court procedure.

If the case is initiated by the University of Arizona Police Department, the case goes to Pima County Justice Court, in downtown Tucson. If the case is initiated by Tucson City Police Department the case goes to Tucson City Court, also in downtown Tucson. Cases initiated by the Arizona Department of Liquor, Arizona Department of Public Safety, Pima County Sheriff’s Department, and Pima Community College Police Department, all go to Justice Court.

Typically, on the ticket or citation, the student, now a “defendant” will be required to appear at an initial appearance or arraignment, personally in court about ten days after the event. It should say so on the ticket. If you hire an attorney you typically do not have to go. If you haven’t obtained counsel by the initial appearance date, you are required to go ( on some occasions the University Police or Department of Public Safety will actually book a student into jail, but those cases almost always involve additional charges or unusual circumstances).

At the initial appearance, the court will assign a trial judge, and set the matter to a case management conference, or pretrial conference, about thirty days, out.

A month later, when the student appears again for the case management or pretrial conference, the prosecutor will likely be only then first provide police reports, sometimes videos from body-worn-cameras, or cameras at the police station, often offer a plea agreement, and sometimes diversion. Many times the prosecutor doesn’t have all the disclosure, and the case gets set off again, yet, another month out. Once again, if the student has a lawyer, the student doesn’t usually have to go to court at that point.

A few words about diversion. Both Justice Court and City Court offer “diversion” to qualifying individuals, almost always those with no prior criminal records. Prosecutors get to decide when to offer diversion, and when not to. It’s totally in their discretion.

The idea of diversion is that the student takes some classes, stays out of trouble, and after a time, usually a number of months, the prosecutor dismisses the case. Some prosecutors require the student to enter a “conditional guilty plea,” which results in an automatic conviction if the student doesn’t do everything he is supposed to. Sometimes prosecutors offer “deferred prosecution” where there is no guilty plea required—the case “rides the calendar”—is continued– for a number of months, and then dismissed.

I have seen prosecutors take various positions on fake ID cases, particularly those where the ID was used to buy alcohol. Sometimes it’s offered, sometimes not. That may also be the case where the student has a prior citation for another offense, often minor in possession of alcohol. If diversion is offered, a court date will be set up for the student to appear.


Some of my suggestions are obvious. First, Arizona is a very conservative place, with active police forces patrolling around campus. The police culture here is not like the culture, for you out-of-staters in let’s say Orange County, California, northern New Jersey, or in many of the other college towns around the country. Campus police here at the university of Arizona can and will seek you out and cite you.

Second, you surely want to avoid being part of the criminal justice system, anywhere. Everyone likes to have a good time at college, but the result shouldn’t be a record you have to explain to future employers, and remains for years. This is especially true for those of you who manage to accumulate more than one ticket. You want to have a good job coming out of college, and don’t want to have to explain this when you start interviewing.

Third, if you are charged, think about possibly hiring a qualified focused attorney to help you deal with matter. It should give you some peace of mind, allow you to focus on school, and aim for a good result. I hope this is of some help.

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