Posession of Fake IDs Now a Criminal Charge In Hamilton



Holly Rothbard

In October 2010, the Hamil­ton Police Department welcomed a new chief, Rick Gifford, who was previously the sergeant of the De­witt Police. In taking on this new role, Gifford also took on a new initiative: to crack down on the use of fake identifications by underage students and residents of Hamilton.

Prior to Gifford’s arrival in Hamilton, persons caught with a fake ID were issued a ticket for a traffic violation; they would sign the back, pay a fine and the issue would be closed. Now, violators are being arrested and charged with criminal possession of a forged in­strument, a class A misdemeanor that is punishable with up to a year in jail or a $1,000 fine.

According to the Madison County Courier, Gifford “has called on other agencies to help, includ­ing: BRiDGES, Madison County’s Council on Alcoholism and Sub­stance Abuse, Madison County’s district attorney and STOP-DWI coordinator, the sheriff’s depart­ment, state police, campus security and local law enforcement.”

In the Courier article, Gifford connected the possession of a fake ID to even more serious crimes.

“‘I don’t want kids to get hurt’… since most sexual assaults occur when one or more parties are under the influence of alcohol and intoxicated people destroy others property be­cause they are disorderly,” Gifford said.

Bill Gabor, the Madison County District Attorney, explained that al­though his office does not have the power to enforce Chief Gifford’s initiative, he and other Madison county law enforcement agencies fully support it.

“We don’t tell police what charg­es to file but we certainly will pros­ecute what charges are brought … and we are seeing the most fake ID arrests in Hamilton than any other village in the county,” Gabor said.

Gabor agreed with Gifford that traffic violations were not a serious enough offense for pos­sessing or attempting to use a fake ID, and proper punishment would help prevent DWIs and keep people safe.

“It is not our goal to have fake IDs become the first offense on these underage peoples’ records, but it is our goal to have more se­rious ramifications for those who use fake IDs with the sole intent of getting into bars or illegally buying alcohol,” Gabor said.

He further explained that often­times the misdemeanor charge is reduced to a non-criminal offense depending on the record of the un­derage person who has been charged. Any reduction, however, is done at the discretion of the law enforcement office that filed the charge.

Four Colgate students were arrest­ed in the last week of January alone and were to appear in the Village Court on February 14. One student, who was arrested in the fall when a Hamilton police officer found her to be in possession of a fake ID, is still currently dealing with her case. The student spoke to the Maroon-News with the hopes that other students would realize the severity of being caught with a fake ID, but wished to remain anonymous.

It was revealed that the officer performed an illegal search of said student’s belongings in order to find the fake ID.

“He told me it would just be a ticket and that everything would be okay. I went to court, filed guilty because it was considered a traffic violation and I paid a fine and thought it was done. Fast for­ward to Thanksgiving break, I got a letter from my home state stat­ing that my license was revoked for at least a year and that I had been convicted with a crime. Accord­ing to my lawyer, my record has an equivalent to a DUI on it,” the student said.

The student also said the Ham­ilton Police and judge failed to pro­vide the proper information in terms of the situation and the charge.

Hamilton Police, not Colgate Campus Safety, arrested each of the five students mentioned.

According to Chief of Campus Safety Bill Ferguson, “Any incidents of fake IDs that occur on campus that we investigate are disposed of through the university’s disciplinary system. If Campus Safety is made aware of stu­dents that are charged by the police for fake IDs, we will refer those students to the university’s disciplinary system.”

However, even though his de­partment does not have law en­forcement powers, Ferguson stated that Campus Safety can and will “confiscate any IDs found to be fake or falsely altered.”

Hamilton Police Chief Rick Gifford could not be reached for comment on this article.