The quick answer is using fake IDs in State College is not a good idea. Occasionally fake IDs will work at a Penn State bar, but if you use a fake ID in this town enough times, you will eventually get caught. A common refrain I hear from clients is "I used this ID all semester with no problem until I got this one bouncer." Others are not so lucky and are busted the first time they try to use a fake ID.
Bar tenders and bouncers in State College tend to be much more vigilant than they are in other parts of Pennsylvania. Also, I suspect there are bars in other parts of the state, which will knowingly serve people with fake IDs, as the fake ID may create plausible deniability. But no Penn State bar will jeopardize its valuable liquor license by knowingly serving someone with a fake ID.
If you are lucky, the bouncer or bar tender will just seize the fake ID and tell you to leave, but sometimes, they will call the police. Thus, trying to use a fake ID in State College is a high risk undertaking, which is not worth the risk. So what exactly are the consequences if you get caught trying to use a fake ID to get into a bar, six pack shop, distributor or state store? If you have a fake driver's license, you could be charged with violations concerning licenses pursuant to 75 Pa.C.S.A. 1571(1)(5). This is a first degree misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of 2.5 to five years of incarceration and a fine not to exceed $10,000. Very few people would get jail time for this offense, but a conviction would still leave you with a damaging criminal record. If you are lucky, you may qualify for a first-time offender's program, which could ultimately allow you to emerge without a criminal record.
Rather than filing the more serious charge of violations concerning licenses, the police will sometimes cut defendants a break and file the less serious summary offense charge of carrying a false identification card by a minor pursuant to 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 6310.3(a). This offense is punishable by up to 90 days in county jail and a fine not to exceed $500. Someone charged with this offense should talk to an attorney before responding to the citation, as there are ways to avoid a conviction and citation record even if you are factually guilty.
Anyone convicted of either violations concerning licenses or carrying false identification card by a minor faces a mandatory driver's license suspension if convicted. The suspension periods are the same as for underage drinking. Underage drinking and the misdemeanor and summary offense versions of possession of a fake ID fall under the rubric of "minor's law" offenses. A first offense minor's law conviction carries a 90 day driver's license suspension. A second conviction carries a one year suspension, while third and subsequent convictions carry two year driver's license suspensions.
In short, State College is probably the least safe place to use fake IDs in all of Pennsylvania. A lot of visitors from other schools and Penn State students from places like New York City and Philadelphia often find out the hard way. If you are charged with possession of a fake ID, you should contact an experienced criminal defense attorney, who may be able to engage in some damage control.
Matt McClenahen is a criminal defense attorney in State College, Pennsylvania, home of Penn State University. He has extensive experience representing young people charged with minor's law offenses. http://www.mattmlaw.com/Criminal-Defense-Overview/Underage-Drinking.shtml