HomeFood LawWhen Should a Server Check a Patron’s ID?

When Should a Server Check a Patron’s ID?

Prior to serving alcohol to the patron is when a server should check for an ID. This is required by California law and is often included in the RBS Training Program exam. Ensuring that individuals consuming alcohol are of legal drinking age is not just a legal requirement but also a crucial aspect of responsible alcohol service. 

Learn more about checking a patron’s ID and why it’s essential.

Which Type of ID Is Acceptable Without a Physical Description?

A U.S. military identification and both U.S. and foreign passports with photographs are types of IDs that are acceptable without a physical description. Other acceptable forms of ID include:

  • California Real ID, Driver’s License, or ID
  • State ID or Driver’s License

According to the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC), a valid photo ID must contain these six characteristics:

  1. A clear photo of the person
  2. Name of the person
  3. Date of birth
  4. Expiration date
  5. Issuing authority
  6. Physical description

A person may not combine two invalid IDs to make one valid form of identification.

What Is the Legal Drinking Age in California?

21 years old is the legal drinking age in California. This age restriction helps mitigate the risks and societal consequences associated with underage drinking.

Traffic crashes, violence, property crime, suicide, burns, drownings, fetal alcohol syndrome, high-risk sex, poisonings, psychoses, and dependency treatment are some of the risks associated with underage drinking, according to “Societal Costs of Underage Drinking” by Ted R. Miller et al., 2006. Enforcing the legal drinking age is critical to prevent these issues and protect public safety.

What Is an Indicator of a False ID?

Six indicators of a fake ID are:

  1. The card can be peeled apart.
  2. The photograph appears raised or altered.
  3. The thickness of the card is too thick or too thin.
  4. There are lumps, bumps, or creases on the surface of the card.
  5. There appear to be alterations to the birth date.
  6. The signature is written in ink.

Detecting a false ID is a skill that servers must possess to uphold the law and maintain safety. Training servers to recognize these indicators is essential to prevent the service of alcohol to minors and potential legal consequences.


Checking a patron’s ID every time is not only about following the law — it’s vital in promoting responsible alcohol service and safeguarding public safety. Servers must know the acceptable forms of identification, the legal drinking age, and how to spot fake IDs to serve alcohol responsibly and legally. 

By adhering to these guidelines, servers play a significant role in protecting young individuals from harm, upholding the law, and reducing the societal costs associated with underage drinking.


Most Popular