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Only 19 and underage in the club world

by Cris Saiki

Kristen is sitting back, smoking out the car window, watching the lights of Waikiki as they pass. Her black pointed-toe stilettos lace up her calves and her legs are crossed at the knee. She is wearing a black asymmetrical dress that cuts from her right knee to her left thigh. Her blond hair is loose, falling in waves over her shoulders. The ID in her small, black handbag identifies her as a 23-year-old. She is 19.


“It was a stroke of luck,” she says when asked how she got her ID. “I was at a party and some guy showed it to me. The similarities were striking. I told him I had to have it. All in all I spent $124, $100 for the ID and $24 for the hair bleach.

“Did you think I was a natural blonde?” she smirked. “I just know how to have fun.”

The club is full; Kristen looks excited. She flashes her ID at the bouncer. He waves her in.

Once inside, she speculates. “At 18, we are old enough to be tried as adults. At 18, we are old enough to choose who we want for president. At 18, we are old enough to fight for our country in war.  But we are not old enough to sit down and have a drink or two.”

Although it seems embedded in American lives, the 21-year-old limit on consumption of alcohol is fairly new. It was only signed into law in 1984. Before then, each state determined its own drinking laws. The push for a national drinking age in the late 1970s was led by Candy Lightner of Mothers Against Drunk Driving and Senator Frank R. Lautenberg, D-NJ. He forced the states to raise their drinking ages by denying those that didn’t a portion of their Federal highway funds.

Inside the club, two of Kristen’s friends, Lili and Jackie, comment on their IDs. Lili, 20, uses a doctored version of her sister’s alien registration card. Jackie is the only one present whose real name appears on her ID. The age on the card, however, doesn’t compute from her 1983 birth date.

“The DMV back home is not half as unyielding as it is here,” Jackie said.  Let’s just say I used my powers of persuasion.”

“The DMV back home is not half as unyielding as it is here,” Jackie said.  Let’s just say I used my powers of persuasion.”

“The DMV back home is not half as unyielding as it is here,” Jackie said.  Let’s just say I used my powers of persuasion.”

Actually, there is a crime being committed here. Severe penalties apply to the possession, manufacture, sale, and use of altered or false identification. In the United States, it is illegal to use someone else’s ID as one’s own. Those who possess, use, or distribute fake IDs are charged with a class one misdemeanor, the next closest thing to a felony.

It is also illegal to possess, produce, or distribute a falsified document that can be mistaken as an official government document. In this case, violators face Class One misdemeanor charges for its sale and Class Two misdemeanor charges for its possession. Conviction for the manufacture of a fake ID could result in a Class Six felony, which could mean jail or a large fine. Also, the offense is marked on the violator’s permanent criminal record, which could limit opportunities for future jobs and prevent professional licensing, admission to graduate school, voting, or holding a public office.

Each club has different ways of handling fake-ID holders.  Most of the time, they simply turn the holders away. “We have stacks and stacks of fake IDs that we have collected over time,” says Douglas Sounder, the general manager of Scruples, an 18+ club in Waikiki “We don’t usually get the police involved.”

Flafh, who refused to give his last name but who is promotions and marketing director at the Wave Waikiki, says that the Wave also confiscates false IDs when bouncers encounter them. “Usually people know better. The Wave has been around for so long that we have established a reputation for being very strict at the door,” he said.

Another friend, 19-year-old Jill, didn’t know what to do during one night of club hopping when the bouncer at her club of choice took her fake ID and asked her to spell her last name as it appeared on the card. “I knew the name very well because the ID had belonged to the sister of a friend of mine, but the spelling was simply impossible. It was so embarrassing,” she recalled.

“I don’t see what the big deal is,” Kristen says in the car on their way home. “It’s just a couple of years. If we are drinking in clubs and bars, then we are not drinking in the streets,” she adds as she unlaces her shoes and takes them off. 

A smile of relief crosses her face. “It’s madness to wear such high shoes when you go out dancing. But my ID has me down as 5’10” and nothing else will do.”




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