College students and fake IDs

Jon Kelly with BBC News Magazine says that fake ID is an American rite of passage, based on the fact that so many college kids, because they’re in college, drink. Yet the legal drinking age in the U.S. is 21. That’s higher than pretty much every other country. In Maryland, for example, one lawyer says fake IDs are “endemic” and that getting busted for underage drinking and possession of fake ID can result in a criminal record.

The criminal record, in turn, can impact a young person’s future.

The news is worse for those charged with actually creating the fake IDs. Kelly calls it a lucrative business. One anecdote describes a couple students with a laptop and laminating machine in a dorm room, doing 100 or 200 fake IDs per week. The punishment for creating IDs – as opposed to just using one in a liquor store or bar – can mean months or years behind bars, depending on the circumstances.

Even though underage drinking is a misdemeanor in Maryland, it can still have an impact on a student’s life in terms of jobs and other opportunities.

Source: Why fake ID is an American rite of passage

Maryland Becoming ‘A True Surveillance State’

J.D. Tuccille, writing for, says that Maryland is “rapidly becoming a true surveillance state.” Here’s the run-down on Maryland:

  • Conversations that take place on buses are regularly recorded
  • Much of Maryland law enforcement is networked into a state data “fusion” center
  • In 2012 alone, scanners collected 85 million license plate records

Tuccille is writing mostly about license plate scanners and the problem that law enforcement doesn’t seem to believe that permission is required – like, say, probable cause or a search warrant – before using them to collect data on citizens’ whereabouts.

Here’s the problem. This anecdote might not have anything to do with Maryland, but Mayor R.T. Rybak of Minneapolis has had his own plates scanned. Even though those scans accounted for less than 1% of all scans in the area, the American Civil Liberties Union was able to piece together information on 41 places Mayor Rybak had been during the time period in which those scans were collected.

If the mayor of a large American city can be tracked this way, what does that mean for the rest of us? Does the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guards against unreasonable search and seizure, mean anything anymore? Or is this surveillance in fact reasonable?

Source: Without Warrants, License Plate Scanners Track Millions of Americans

Maryland Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown On How He’ll Fight Baltimore Crime

Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown is running for governor of Maryland in 2014. He was endorsed by Baltimore City Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. In a speech in the city, Justin Fenton for the Baltimore Sun reports that Brown was asked how as governor he would “stem the recent wave of violence” in Baltimore.

Brown said it came down to technologies.

At first he was reluctant to give any specifics (probably because he wasn’t fully prepared to answer the question). Later his office issued a statement, from which Fenton quotes:

“Maryland law enforcement is working together at every level to fight crime by utilizing new technologies and tactics…”

At first, with the words “utilizing” and “tactics,” the statement reads like a corporate memo. But it does go on to specifically reference things like the DNA database.

The U.S. Supreme Court recently said that cheek swabs for DNA, and entering that DNA in a database, is like fingerprinting. In other words, the Court said it was okay for the police to swab a person’s cheek and check it against the database after an arrest, just as fingerprinting is done during the booking process.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia wrote: “Make no mistake about it: because of today’s decision, your DNA can be taken and entered into a national database if you are ever arrested, rightly or wrongly, and for whatever reason.”

Maybe that’s why Brown was initially reluctant to give specifics in his public speech. After all, cheek swabs and the DNA database present considerable privacy issues. It may be a topic worth avoiding for a person running for political office.

Source: Lt. Gov. Brown says “technologies” will stem Baltimore crime