Know Your Customers (Checking Identifications)


In this section we will review the keys to customer observation in order to detect that a minor is attempting to purchase alcohol.

Different rules apply in different situations and it is the responsibility of the seller – server to know which rule applies in which case.  For example, on premise locations, off premise locations, private clubs and as a social host.

Remember that the ultimate person responsible and who can be held legally liable in a civil or criminal court for the actions of an intoxicated person, is the seller – server or person directly dispatching the alcohol.  Do not get fooled into an illegal sale!

They keys to customer observation – For minors

Now that you know it is illegal to sell alcoholic beverages to minors, you will learn how to determine if a customer is a minor or an adult.

Many factors come into play when determining if a person is a minor. Things like fashion trends, hairstyles, and behavior are all important factors to consider when determining age, but none are exclusive or decisive in any way.  Some people carry genetic characteristics that may fool you as to their age.

To decide if a sale of alcohol is legal, watch your customers to:

  • See how they look
    • If they look like a minor they probably are a minor.
    • Carefully look at their ID
  • See What They Do
    • Watch how your customer acts
  • See How They React
    • Watch how your customer interacts with you and others.

Characteristics of minors

If a person has the physical characteristics of a minor, they likely are a minor. However, the opposite is not true! People mature at different rates. Many minors may have physical characteristics of an adult. Don’t be fooled!

Remember:   Your job as a Seller-Server is to provide alcohol to “non-intoxicated” adults over the age of 21. If you suspect a person to be a minor and he/she does not have a valid form of ID, play it safe and do not make the sale. Nobody can obligate you to make a sale and it is the responsibility of the person attempting to make a purchase of alcohol, to comply with the law and have with him/her a valid form of ID if they wish to purchase or consume alcohol.

Physical characteristics of minors

Minors generally have common physical characteristics.  Keep in mind that these are just suggestions and should not be taken as definite legal recommendations. The only legal way to ensure a person is not a minor is identifying them as an adult by verifying a valid form of ID.

The following is a list of some characteristics of a minor.

  • Immature physical appearances: little or no facial hair on boys undeveloped appearance of girls
  • Skin complexion – smooth, unlined faces
  • Be aware that not all minors have these physical characteristics and do not rely on them solely to identify a minor.
  • Some minor males may have beards and mustaches.
  • Some may have bald or shaved heads.
  • Some minor males are big, which may make them appear older.
  • Some minor females may wear makeup or clothing that makes them appear older.

Be aware that the way a female dresses and the use of makeup can be deceiving as to the female age.

Fads and Fashions of minors

Minors tend to dress in the latest fads and fashion trends. These will change frequently. Often times the purpose of these trends is to make themselves look older or seem of more mature appearance or to make it difficult for an observer to identify age.

Some other things to look for are:

  • School uniforms
  • Class rings
  • Too much makeup
  • Trendy hair styles

Behaviors and reactions of minors

Certain behavior patterns may also be characteristic of minors or people that may purchase alcohol for minors. Minors have common behaviors when attempting to make an illegal purchase.  They may be very friendly or they may become nervous and aggressive.  Be on the look out!!!

  • May appear nervous – may not make eye contact with you
  • Self-conscious about appearance
  • Some minors act very confident and sure of themselves when attempting to purchase alcohol.
  • Young people gathering in groups and sending one to make a purchase.
  • Young people approaching adults that are on their way in to make a purchase.
  • A minor might display one or more of these characteristic reactions:
  • Acting nervous or insecure
  • Being overly friendly or acting “cool”
  • Not making eye contact or trying to hide their face
  • Checking the area or glancing around
  • Showing an ID but trying to put it away quickly


We will be using the ADAM & EVE Concept to evaluate the minor’s behavior, appearance or verify their age.


Using the EVE concept a person can be evaluated by the physical characteristics mentioned above.  Evaluate their physical appearance to have an idea if your customer is a minor.  Look for smooth unwrinkled faces, lack of facial hair on boys, baby fat and undeveloped bodies on females just to mention some of the characteristics displayed by a minor.  Verify fads and fashion such as class rings, school uniforms, fashion wear, fashionable hair do and verify their reactions.  Execute by validating a valid picture ID.


The ADAM Concept will help you intervene to avoid an illegal transaction with a minor.  After verifying that the customer is a minor you take steps to remove the alcohol from reach.  The minor might grab the alcohol and walk out of an off premise location with the alcohol. At that time you would need to take a stand and make a Decision not to ring up the sale since that would be an illegal transaction.  Apply the law by notifying law enforcement of the action of the minor that walked out of your location with the alcohol.

Practice your observation skills

Keep in mind that the penalties for selling, serving or providing directly or indirectly, alcohol to minor are the strictest punishable by law.   You may be found criminally negligent and liable for personal injury or property damage caused by your intoxicated patron if you fail to assert the law at the proper time and uphold your company’s policies while staying within the scope of law to avoiding an illegal sale.

Remember: Fads and fashions change and not all minors are physically immature. In the next section you will learn that your best defense is to check identification carefully. It’s the only way to really know!

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Practice Your Observation Skills

Let’s see how well you can determine if a person is a minor based on observation. For each of the following pictures, decide which ones are minors.

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Are any of these people minors?

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ALL of the people are potentially minors !!!





Know how to check ID’s

Considering that Texas law does not define what a valid ID is. It is important for you to consider the following when checking ID’s.

  • Look for fake ID’s.
  • Look for expiration dates and date of birth.
  • Look for physical description and compare photo.

The ADAM EVE Method to verify IDs


Evaluate the type of ID presented.  Be sure not to accept school or employment IDs as these will not lawfully protect you.  Verify to make sure the ID presented is a government issued ID that contains a photo, physical description, age and expiration date, since these are the only valid forms of identification. Execute your decision to refuse services according to your evaluation.


Alcohol removal is the first step to take after determining that the ID presented is fake or altered.  Disposition, take a stand into examining the validity of the ID.  Apply the law regarding your knowledge that the ID presented could have had a date of birth that could have been changed to represent your customer being 21 or older. If the photo does not compare to the physical description, you need to Make a move to not proceed with the sale.

Make note that even if the customer presents a fake ID, you do NOT have the authority to confiscate the false ID.  Only a peace officer has the power to confiscate a fake ID.

The alcoholic beverage code defines a minor as a person under the age of 21.

It is not legal for you to confiscate an ID if you suspect it to be fake.  The proper action when being presented with a fake ID, is to deny the sale and advise the authorities of the person using a fake ID to try to make an illegal purchase at another location.

In Texas, it is not strictly required for a person above the age of 21 to have to identify themselves in order to consume an alcoholic beverage at your establishment. However, at the point of sale, the decision to serve or not is made by the seller-server at their own discretion.  When provided with an ID, hold the ID in your possession and ask questions regarding the ID.  Ask for the person’s date of birth, ask for residential address, ask for zip code.  If in doubt, ask for his date of birth starting with the year of birth, date of birth and month of birth.  Another method would be to ask for a signature and compare signature on the ID.

The safest way to avoid a sale to a minor is to check their identification. While the law does not state that you have to check an ID to sell or serve alcoholic beverages, the majority of retailers want to do the right thing and avoid alcohol sales to minors. Talk to your manager about your company’s policy.

It is a criminal offense for a minor to purchase, possess and attempt to purchase or consume alcoholic beverages.

There are some exceptions to these laws, such as:

  • A minor may possess alcohol in the scope of employment
  • When in the visible presence of his legal aged parent, legal guardian or spouse and
  • When assisting a police officer in the enforcement of the alcoholic beverage code.  (Minor Sting Operations).

Note:  A minor may consume alcohol only if they are in the visible presence of their legal aged parents, legal guardian or spouse.

A minor can work as a cashier at an on – premise restaurant location that that gets the majority of their sales from items other than alcohol sales, as long as the alcoholic beverages are being served by a server that is 18 years of age or older. A minor cannot sell prepare or serve an alcoholic beverage.

If it is found that the owner or officer of the business (the licensee or permittee) with criminal negligence sold, served, dispensed, or delivered an alcoholic beverage to a minor or with criminal negligence permitted a minor to violate the laws on the licensed premises, their licenses and permits can be cancelled or suspended.

You should ask for an ID before you begin to serve or begin to ring up an alcohol sale.


  • For off-premise sales, you can place your hands on the alcohol packaging and then ask for an ID, in case you need to remove the alcohol from reach.
  • For on-premise sales, ask for an ID before pouring or serving the alcoholic beverage.

Company Policies

Store policies may be different depending on the retailer.  Some retailers will only accept Texas driver’s license or ID’s as proof of legal age.  Some retailers will ask for an ID from all persons attempting to purchase alcohol.  Some employers will accept foreign or expired ID’s.  There isn’t a state law requiring ID for alcohol purchases so establishments have discretion to make their own policies as they wish.

Texas law does not state that a person over the age of 21 must provide proof of age for alcohol purchases.  There is no specific form of ID considered “valid” under state law.  You will not be charged with a crime if the minor misrepresents his / her age with an ID that is:

  •             Issued by a government agency
  •             Has a physical description and photo that is consistent with the minor’s appearance
  •             Represents that the minor is 21 years of age or older.

However, the only forms of ID that are going to protect you under the current law include:

  •             Any State ID or driver’s license
  •             U.S. military ID or Federal documents (passport, passport card, permanent resident card or resident ID card)

For that reason, since store clerks, wait staff, and bartenders can be held criminally liable for selling alcohol to a minor, they often require a photo ID issued by a governmental agency, to prove that the person really is 21.

A store, bar or restaurant might or might not sell alcohol to a person with an expired driver’s license, a foreign passport or other ID. What’s acceptable in any establishment is a matter of that establishment’s private business policies.

If the patron is obviously over 21, the establishment may not require any ID at all.

Valid Identification

The state of Texas does not have a law establishing what a valid identification is.  All forms of ID can be considered valid for the purpose of establishing legal drinking age, as long as they comply with the criteria mentioned below. It is also not required by Texas law for a person older than 21 to carry or present an ID for the purpose of consuming alcohol. Therefore, for the Seller-Server, ID serves the sole purpose of establishing a basis for considering age. A Seller-Server must use this basis to determine whether or not they will be making a sale to that person.

Not just any identification card is valid! A valid ID must:

  • Appear to be valid (not expired, no obvious signs of alteration or forgery)
  • Issued by a U.S. Government Agency.
  • Include a physical description and picture consistent with the customer’s appearance.
  • A birth date that shows that the customer is 21 years or older.

Examples of IDs that can be used are:

  • Texas Driver’s license.
  • Texas Identification Card.
  • Texas temporary Driver’s License.
  • U.S. Passports and passport cards
  • Out of state Driver’s License.
  • Out of state ID.
  • Military ID.

Be sure to refer to your company’s policy on what IDs they allow to be used. Your establishment may have policies in place that are stricter than Texas law.  These are the IDs that will protect you in the state of Texas.

A store bar or restaurant might or might not sell alcohol to a person with an expired driver’s license, foreign passport or other ID. What is acceptable in any establishment is a matter of that establishment’s private business policy.

Texas driver’s license and identification cards

Texas Department of Public Safety issues driver’s licenses and identification cards that have specific security features. Learn these features to be able to identify a valid ID.

NOTE: Effective 9/1/2015, a person can no longer be issued both a driver’s license and identification card.   Because of this law change, as a seller server make sure you know how to find the date of birth and know the security features on both a driver’s license and identification card.  You may start seeing more Identification cards since a person may no longer have both at the same time.

Texas REAL ID and Driver License
The REAL ID Act is a federal law that establishes specific federal requirements for state-issued driver license and identity cards to be accepted for certain federal purposes, like entering a federal building or boarding a domestic flight. Texas Department of Public Safety began issuing REAL ID compliant Driver License and Identification cards in October, 2016. These cards are marked with a star and can be used as the sole ID for domestic flights and to access federal buildings. Texans can continue to use their standard licenses until they expire or until October 1, 2020; whichever comes first.

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Valid Forms of ID


Issued AFTER October 2016 - Front and Back

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FRONT of TX Drivers License, issued AFTER October 2016

• 8-digit license number printed in blue

• Official’s signature overlaps the photo

• Fine lines used in images and in the background of the card

• Variable rainbow text used on the date of birth

• Texas Capital printed on the right side of the card.

• Notice the REAL ID compatible STAR.

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BACK of TX Drivers License, issued AFTER April 2009

• 1D Barcode at the top

• 2D Barcode at the lower right

• Magnetic stripe

• Restrictions and Endorsements

• Texas Roadside Assistance number

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• Texas state seal

• Three stars: blue, sliver, and gold





Minor’s driver’s license and identification cards

Minor (under 21) DL and ID cards have a vertical format and indicate “UNDER 21” on the front of the document. The identification card does not have an “Under 21 Until” date; however, it is clearly marked as an Under 21 Identification Card. On the Driver’s License, you can check the “UNDER 21 UNTIL” date and as long as the Driver’s License is still valid and it is the current date or later, it Is a valid ID to purchase alcohol

IDs for individuals 60 and over will have an indefinite expiration date.  As of April 2015 Driver licenses expire every six years.  Since they have expired, you cannot accept an expired driver’s license. It is up to the employer’s policies to accept or deny a sale based on presenting an expired ID.

Note: Be aware of the Texas REAL ID compliant star on minors driver’s license and identification cards issued after October 2016.

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Valid Forms of ID


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AFTER 2016


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REGULAR ID CARD - Issued AFTER October 2016

AFTER 2016





Out-of-state ID examples

Driver’s licenses and ID cards from other states are allowed to be used as proof of age within the State of Texas if approved by your company’s policy. The ID must be issued by a government agency, have a physical description and picture consistent with the customer’s appearance, and show their age to be 21 years or older.

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Valid Forms of ID


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Federal ID examples

Other IDs that are typically accepted are those issued by the federal government including military IDs, consulate issued ID’s and passports. Again, check your company’s policy about what IDs you can accept as proof of age.

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Valid Forms of ID


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How to check an ID

Below are a few steps that you can take to ensure that the ID you are being presented, is valid.

Remember: A person is not required by law to present any form of ID in order to consume alcohol. If a patron is obviously over 21, the establishment you work for may not even require any ID at all.

If however you are unsure and the only legal way to certify age is by checking ID, be sure to look out for:

  1. Is this the right type of ID?
  • Look for valid formats
  • Look for signs of alteration
  1. Is this the right person?
  • Scan for the picture and compare
  • Scan for the physical description and compare
  1. Is this person of age?
  • Scan for the date of birth
  • (DOB) and do the math!


Learn to scan the ID for three critical things:

  • Make sure that it is a valid ID.
  • Make sure that the description and photo on the ID matches the person presenting it.
  • Check to see that the person is 21 years old or older.
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3 Simple rules to keep in mind!

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*Look for valid formats

*Look for signs of alteration

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2. Is this the right person?

*Scan for the picture and compare.

*Scan for the physical description
and compare.

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3. Is this person of age?

*Scan for the date of birth (DOB)
and do the math!

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Make sure it is a valid id.

Make sure that the description
and photo on the ID matches
the person presenting it.

Check to see that the
person is 21 years
old or older.





Electronic scanning devices

The use of electronic scanning devices is legal, but it does not replace looking at the identification and matching the appearance of the person presenting it to the picture on the identification.

Use the information on the card, such as the photo and physical description, to validate that the identification belongs to the person presenting it.

The use of electronic scanners reveals information such as age, address and in some cases as much information as telephone numbers, addresses, social security numbers and recognizes weather the ID is fake or not.  This doesn’t mean that you as a seller server should call the police to have your customer arrested or keep record of this information to sell it or misuse it.    In Texas, it is legal to use this information but is illegal to sell it.  Some establishment owners utilize this information for marketing purposes, targeting areas or clientele that they would like to capture.  However, customers have the choice to ask the cashier or bartender to not scan the ID.  In that case, the alcohol seller – server will have no other choice than to calculate age by looking at the ID.

Remember: If the electronic scanner indicated that the ID presented is a fake ID, you do not have the legal authority to confiscate that ID.  Only licensed peace officers have the legal authority to confiscate IDs.

Fake drivers licenses and ID’s

Fake IDs are illegal to use, to possess, or to manufacture. Whether purchased online or from a vendor, the document should indicate “not a government document.

  • It is a Class C misdemeanor to possess with the intent to use, circulate, or pass a forged or counterfeit Texas Driver’s License or Identification Card.
  • Private Citizens are not legally authorized to confiscate an ID.

Driver’s licenses altered, used or obtained fraudulently

  • It is a felony to manufacture or produce with the intent to sell, distribute or deliver any counterfeit or forged Texas Driver’s License or Identification Card.
  • It is a Class A misdemeanor to possess with the intent to sell, distribute, or deliver a forged or counterfeit Texas Driver’s License or Identification Card
  • It is a Class A misdemeanor to possess a fake or altered ID, to lend or let another person use your driver’s license or ID, or to use another person’s driver’s license or ID.
  • It is a Class A misdemeanor to possess more than one valid driver’s license or ID.
  • It is a Class A misdemeanor to provide false information when applying for a driver’s license or ID.

How to watch for fake ID’s

Watch for the following warning signs to help identify fake IDs:

  • Fuzzy printing on any numbers or letters or red eyes in the photo
  • Bumpy surfaces around the picture, birth date, height, or weight
  • The words “this is not a valid ID”, “for amusement purposes only” or “Not a Government Document”
  • An ID marked as a “duplicate” might indicate that the original license holder requested a second license for someone else

If you suspect the ID to be forged, you can ask about details like middle initials, address, and zip code. You can also ask for a second or even third form of ID. Questions that are answered with a hesitating response can mean a forgery.

NOTE: Even if an ID is a fake or does not belong to the person presenting it, you are not legally authorized to confiscate an ID.


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