Adventures in underage drinking

In all of my previous experience, Tampa has been a safe haven for underage drinkers — all you need is a fake ID and a pretty smile. At least that's what's always worked up until now.

First, let me introduce you to my partners in crime, Danielle and Melissa. Melissa looks like an angel, tiny with blond hair and big, green eyes, and she'll flirt with anything in a 5-mile radius willing to buy us drinks. Danielle is fiery and has the tendency to be overly dramatic, but only in an entertaining way. I've been getting into trouble with these two since high school. As soon as we were semi-old enough to begin frequenting local bars we started searching for fake IDs. I was the lucky one: I have an older sister. I was the designated 21-year-old in our group of girls for a while, but after our first semester in college, all of our friends had fakes.

Last week we strode into a bar on Bruce B. Downs and presented our fakes confidently. It wasn't the nicest place, but it had great service, lots of pool tables and dart boards, and the best thing is they give you these blue tickets when you walk in the door that are good for two $5 pitchers. Danielle, Melissa and I hadn't seen each other in a while, so we just wanted to catch up. Every time I go out with Melissa we drink for free. It never fails. She has this uncanny ability to get guys to offer her and all her friends whatever they want before she politely thanks them and sends them on their way. Normally, I frown upon this type of behavior, preferring to buy my own drinks rather than feeling like I owe a conversation to some sleaze, but this particular night for some reason was especially easy for Melissa to secure our buzz for free. After the bar closed and we were thrown out, we decided to head over to the Seminole Hard Rock Casino.

This is where the night took a very wrong turn.

At first it was perfect. We stumbled into the Hard Rock, but not before stopping to pee in a well-hidden crevice between wall and bush. (It was a very long walk from the parking lot.) Our Casino entrance was very well-executed. When you're drinking underage, everything is like a special-ops mission, and the trick is confidence. We made our way to the bar, flashed our IDs and the party continued. Melissa began working her magic while Danielle and I sat back and laughed as we watched her score rounds of drinks for us. She even weaseled $20 out of one poor dude so we could try out the slot machines.

Then our party stopped. A security guard swooped in on Melissa and asked for her ID. Shit. She kept her game face on and answered all of his questions before he ruthlessly threatened her with the P-word: Police. After wriggling the truth from Melissa, he moved on to Danielle and me. In the few times my fake has been questioned, I have recited perfectly my fake name, my fake address and my fake zodiac sign, resulting in immediate surrender from the bouncer or bartender, but this guy was not fooling around. After questioning us, he got out a pen and paper and made us sign our names so he could cross-reference our signatures with those on our IDs.

We were toast.

How embarrassing. We successfully fooled everyone at the bar only to be discovered and thrown out in front of everyone. Our IDs were confiscated, but I'm thankful law enforcement was not involved. It really got me thinking about what could have happened, so I looked it up.

From the University of Florida Police Department Web site:

F.S.S. 322.32: Unlawful use of license is a second degree MISDEMEANOR.

This statute makes it unlawful to display, cause, permit to be displayed, or have in your possession any canceled, revoked, or suspended, disqualified, fictitious, or fraudulently altered driver's license. It is also unlawful to lend a license to any other person or knowingly permit its use by another.

Example: An older sibling or friend loans their driver's license to younger sibling or friend who uses it to get into clubs/bars; the older sibling would be charged. To display, or represent as your own or any driver’s license not issued to you is also illegal.

Example: Same scenario as above but this time the younger sibling or friend would be charged.

Since my ID was my sister's and my friends had friends' IDs, we would have been charged with a misdemeanor, but presenting a forged ID, like many of my peers do, is a felony.

F.S.S. 322.212: Unauthorized possession or other unlawful acts in relation to, driver's license or identification cards is a third degree FELONY.

It is unlawful for any person to knowingly have in their possession any blank, forged, stolen, fictitious, counterfeit, or unlawfully issued driver's license or identification card. It is unlawful for any person to barter, trade, sell, or give away any driver's license or identification card or to perpetrate a conspiracy to barter, trade, sell, or give away any such license or identification card unless authorized.

Example: A person provides false information or someone else’s information about their identity to the Division of Driver’s Licenses and has an official ID card or DL made with their photo on it and the erroneous information they provided.

Example: A friend has a "board" made that you stand in front of and have your photo taken so that the photo looks like an official ID card or DL issued by the State of Florida.

My first instinct was to call my sister and beg her to get me a new ID, but now I'm questioning if it'd be worth it. I could easily get a new one, but I'm thinking I might quit while I'm ahead.

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