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Underage Drinking Pervasive on College Campuses

by | Jul 13, 2013

As freshman college students prepare to embark on their first year of college in the fall, it’s an appropriate time for parents to raise the issue of underage drinking on campus.

Our D.C. underage drinking defense lawyers recognize that for some, consuming alcohol with friends and even binge drinking is seen as a college right of passage, hyped and glamorized by society at-large. But college students who are underage need to understand the risk they are taking on by imbibing before turning 21.

Of course, getting behind the wheel, there is the obvious potential for a DUI arrest, which could be severely amplified if property is significantly damaged or someone else is seriously hurt or killed.

But being under age and consuming alcohol in and of itself can be accompanied by serious consequences, particularly if the action takes place at school. In those situations, your child might not only face a fine of hundreds of dollars and a three-month suspension of driving privileges, there is the matter of a criminal misdemeanor conviction that will be a stain on his permanent record (per D.C. Code 25-1002), plus university sanctions.

Different schools take different approaches to the issue.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports that 80 percent of college students drink alcohol. Fifty percent of those say they have participated in binge drinking at some time in the last two weeks. With less than half the average collegiate student body over the age of 21, that makes for a lot of underage drinking, much of it on campus grounds.

In the past, many schools had chosen to simply ignore it, so long as there was no major disturbance or other laws broken. But this has given some schools a reputation for being “party schools,” and that makes parents wary of paying good money to send their child to attend. Plus, the presence of alcohol on campus also tends to raise the crime level, specifically those involving property damage, fights and disturbances and sexual assaults. Plus, students who are heavy drinkers tend to maintain lower grades, miss more classes and fall behind on school work.

All of this reflects poorly on the schools, and provides strong incentives for university officials to team up with law enforcement to crack down on the issue.

At a minimum, per the Drug Free Schools and Communities Act Amendments of 1989, this has to include distribution of information to students regarding the laws that regulate alcohol and drug abuse, university standards of conduct related to alcohol use, penalties for breaking local, state and federal laws as well as campus rules, risks associated with alcohol abuse and details on any counseling or treatment programs available to students.

But the consequences for breaking these rules vary from institution to institution. Those may range from a verbal reprimand to suspension to expulsion.

Many students – and their parents, for that matter – don’t realize that they can and should have legal representation when appearing before the university. Having an experienced underage drinking defense attorney who can represent you both with regard to the criminal case as well as before the university can serve to have the charges dismissed or at least, the sanctions reduced. Ultimately, it’s an investment in your future.

We’re confident most underage drinkers learn from the experience of simply being arrested. It’s enough to wake them up. Even in cases when students are guilty, they shouldn’t have to pay for it indefinitely throughout their college and professional career with a criminal record always shadowing behind them.

If you are facing underage drinking charges in D.C., contact the Scrofano Law, PC at 202-765-3175.