Why some new Colorado driver’s licenses won’t scan

Colorado mountains and lake at sunset

Last updated on May 23rd, 2024 at 11:37 am

Many bars, clubs, and dispensaries are reporting issues scanning Colorado driver’s licenses that were printed in 2016 and later. This resulted in many calls from owners who thought that scanners were malfunctioning. However, the issue is actually with the IDs themselves. Because Colorado IDs expire every 5 years, and these IDs were launched in 2016, this means that virtually all of the 4.3M drivers in Colorado are using a driver’s license that may have issues being scanned.

In 2016, Colorado released an ID with a dark blue image of the Capitol Building behind the PDF417 barcode.

Back of Colorado driver's license

The issue is not an issue of the software or the hardware lacking the ability to scan the barcode. The issue is that the Colorado DMV created IDs not compliant with AAMVA 2020 DL/ID Standards Annex D. The barcode on these IDs fails to meet certain criteria for readability, such as the “Quiet Zone” – area that surrounds the barcode or 2D symbol that is free of all text, characters, graphics, marks, and blemishes.

Immediately, there were issues scanning IDs across the board. Thales (at the time – Gemalto) updated their SDK and drivers to take higher resolution images of the IDs. This update is built directly into IDScan.net’s VeriScan and ParseLink products.

While taking high-resolution images makes the IDs’ barcodes slightly easier to scan, it is still not 100% consistent. No laser scanner is able to scan these IDs, as the information is unreadable in the traditional infrared light spectrum. It’s possible that optical character recognition (OCR) could also allow ID information to be captured, but this is also not 100% consistent, no matter which software or hardware you use.

At IDScan.net, we have suggested several remedies for businesses that are having issues scanning Colorado driver’s licenses: 

High-resolution scanning

The E-Seek M500 or Thales AT10K scanners have the highest resolution cameras and will have fewer issues scanning Colorado driver’s licenses. This is the most secure option, but roughly 2-5% of IDs may still have issues scanning. This solution can further be improved upon by adding authentication software by adding advanced collection features and security measures to the scanning process.

Optical character recognition

Another option is to change the type of scanning. An image ID scanner can be used, which then ignores the barcode and instead captures data via optical character recognition (OCR). This runs the risk of incorrect data being captured if a sub-par OCR program is run. 

Additional training to manually verify Colorado IDs

Simply put your bouncers, bartenders, or budtenders through a quick refresher course specific to the Colorado ID. When either of the above options fails, they can manually verify the ID. 

Colorado announced in May 2020 that they’re redesigning the ID again. The new ID was released March 2022, which has a distinct white rectangle behind the barcode making it much more readable.

Front and back of a Colorado ID, side-by-side

Another blog you may like: Benefits of DMV Data Verification Service