When checking IDs there are several factors to consider; what is acceptable, when to ask for ID, and how to properly check an ID for validity and identity. This document is meant to provide helpful information and does not serve as legal advice or an interpretation of the law.

The most important part of checking an ID is setting up a process for your establishment and always following it. Consistency is a key factor in identifying underage activity.

What is acceptable?

  • A valid current driver’s license or photo ID card issued by the Illinois Secretary of State’s Office or any other State
  • A valid Armed Forces ID
  • A valid U.S. passport containing the holder’s photograph

What is not acceptable?

  • Anything other than the IDs listed above.
  • Some common IDs people try to use that are NOT acceptable: college ID, mail order ID, unusual out of state IDs, birth certificate.

When should an ID be requested?

  • An ID should be requested for anyone that walks into your establishment that looks under age. Some establishments choose to card everyone and others set an age, such as, 25 and check everyone who looks younger than 25.
  • Some physical checks for age indicators include; beard, lack of physical development, pitch of a voice, heavy use of make-up, extreme trends in younger generations (fashion), school jackets/clothing
  • Behavioral queues; checking hair, make-up, clothes, embarrassed/nervous, arrive in crowds, need to conform to others (dressed alike, mimic others in group)
  • If uncertain, always ask for an ID

How should an ID be verified as valid?

  • If the ID is expired it is no longer valid
  • Check the date the ID was issued, 4 year increments from age 16
  • Check ID for any unusual raised surfaces, correct size, thickness, edges are no ragged; any signs of alteration
  • Look under bright light for glue lines or pin holes
  • Look at ID format
  • Do not accept IDs stamped as duplicate
  • Check the back of the ID

How should an ID be verified for identity?

  • Physical appearance: hair line, eyebrows, chin shape, and height
  • Ask for person information, such as; birth date, age, zodiac sign, zip code
  • If you are ever uncertain ask for a second form of ID and check items, such as; age, birth date, physical characteristics, and/or signature
  • If you are uncertain after requesting a second ID, politely refuse service (see section 6.9 for Refusal of Service)

F.E.A.R. method of carding

F = Feel
Feel the ID for pin holes, re-lamination (feels thicker), glue lines
E = Examine
Examine the ID for duplication, eraser marks, holograms, state logo, reverse side, physical description, expiration, age of 21 and verify out of state IDs
A = Ask
Ask for a second form of identification if you are in doubt, inquire about the ID (birth date, middle initial, zip code, age, horoscope sign, etc.), compare signature
R = Return or Refuse
If it is a valid ID, serve the guest
If you are not certain the ID is valid, do NOT serve the guest and ask them politely to leave the establishment

Here is a sample proper ID checking steps:

  1. Greet customer
  2. Have customer remove ID from wallet
  3. Look at person and check against ID
  4. Check physical description (hair color, eye color, height, weight)
  5. Check ID information (dates, state, holograms, etc.)
  6. Check expiration
  7. Check for tampering
  8. If in doubt, ask for another form of ID and check photograph, information, physical description, and signature

*This blog is meant to provide helpful information but is in no way meant to interpret the law or provide legal advice. We are not lawyers. If you have specific questions you should speak to law enforcement agencies or your attorney.