Students at Penn State University, Temple University, Drexel University, LaSalle University, Villanova University, or another one of Pennsylvania's fine schools can have a great deal of freedom to pursue their interests and affinities. College is a great time for exploration, including recreational pursuits. Parties in dormitories, other university housing, fraternities, and sororities, tailgating at sports events, and gatherings around music and arts events can be some of the most enjoyable experiences for a college student. Yet every college or university student also knows that schools and local city law enforcement will place reasonable limits on student conduct when it becomes distracting, disruptive, or dangerous to personal health. And college and university students generally know that alcohol possession and distribution is one of those areas where local law enforcement and schools may be especially concerned about regulating student conduct. But many students don't appreciate the special risks that they can face from alcohol possession and distribution on or around campus.
Criminal and School Proceedings
If you party irresponsibly, possessing and distributing alcohol when law and school policy prohibits it, you could face both criminal charges and school disciplinary charges in two separate proceedings. Penn State University provides a good example. Penn State's Office of Student Affairs expressly warns that “if you are involved with an alleged alcohol-related violation, you potentially face sanctions by the University as well as criminal charges by local authorities. These are separate and distinct processes, and you will likely have to respond to both the University's Conduct Process as well as the Criminal Process for the same event.” Criminal court is quite different from an academic administrative proceeding. In the event that you face such dual charges, you need a defense attorney who knows both criminal defense and student defense. Retain premier Pennsylvania student discipline and criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm's student defense team. Don't lose your education to alcohol possession and distribution charges.
Alcohol Abuses on Pennsylvania College Campuses
Pennsylvania law generally permits colleges and universities to maintain law enforcement and security services on campus. Temple University, for instance, has both law enforcement officers and security operations officers working with one another right on campus to detect and prevent activities that threaten personal safety. While you may see your school as a place of relative liberty, college and university campuses are nonetheless highly regulated environments with their own police forces. The University of Pennsylvania and Penn State University, like Temple, maintain their own police forces. Alcohol possession and distribution is one of the primary areas on which those officers focus their attention. And when those campus officers or other local law enforcement officers observe a violation of Pennsylvania law and local ordinances on alcohol possession and distribution, they will seek criminal charges in the local courts together with school disciplinary charges. Alcohol crimes and violations are among the most common offenses derailing student education. If you face criminal charges and school disciplinary charges at your Pennsylvania college or university, retain student discipline and criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento now.
Pennsylvania Alcohol Possession and Distribution Crimes
Local authorities can charge Pennsylvania college and university students with several alcohol possession and distribution crimes. Minors possessing alcohol may face criminal charges under Pennsylvania Criminal Code Section 6308, requiring that you be at least age 21 to purchase, consume, possess, or transport alcoholic beverages in Pennsylvania. But even if you are twenty-one years old and of lawful drinking age, you may still face the following alcohol possession and distribution charges:
- Public intoxication is a crime under Pennsylvania Criminal Code Section 5505 whenever the student's alcohol-induced conduct endangers or annoys others. Law enforcement can broadly construe what constitutes sufficient annoyance, making students subject to a public intoxication charge for things like yelling, singing, or other excessive noise, and horseplay or other public exhibitionism
- Disorderly conduct is a crime under Pennsylvania Criminal Code Section 5503 for any intentional conduct causing “public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm.” Campus or local police may seek such charges for student conduct like fighting, threats, and obscene language or gestures
- An open container of alcohol may be a crime under local ordinances. Penn State University's local Borough of State College, for instance, maintains an open container ordinance applicable “on any public street, public sidewalk, public alley or public park”
- Furnishing alcohol to minors is a crime under Pennsylvania Criminal Code Section 6310.1. The one furnishing the alcohol may be an adult who could lawfully possess and consume the alcohol, but distributing it to a minor would nonetheless be an offense
- Inducing a minor to purchase alcohol is a crime under Pennsylvania Criminal Code Section 6310 when, for example, an adult provides a minor with money, transportation, or identification to purchase alcohol
Alcohol Possession and Distribution Penalties
The penalties for the above Pennsylvania alcohol possession and distribution crimes can range from fines of $500 to $1,000 for a first offense, up to $2,500 for subsequent offenses, and from ninety days to up to one year in jail. Any fine can be a burden. But incarceration for any period of time, even as short as a few days, can seriously damage school, work, family, and personal obligations. Yet the stakes of a criminal conviction are higher than just incarceration and fines. Criminal records can carry serious collateral consequences affecting jobs, careers, licenses, certifications, rights, privileges, and relationships. Criminal convictions can also lead to school discipline up to suspension or expulsion. Don't underestimate the impact of alcohol possession and distribution penalties. Protect your future by retaining premier Pennsylvania student discipline defense and criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento.
Defending Alcohol Possession and Distribution Crime Charges
Don't think that just because campus or local police have charged you with unlawful alcohol possession or distribution that your criminal conviction is a forgone conclusion. To the contrary, you may well have a valid defense to the charge. Don't assume that you face the proverbial open-and-shut case. Criminal proceedings have multiple stages at which a skilled and experienced criminal defense attorney may succeed in negotiating or winning dismissal or reduction of the charge. Premier Pennsylvania student discipline defense and criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento strategically invokes the following procedures to help students avoid criminal conviction:
- Arraignment, ensuring your prompt release without restrictive bond terms, leaving you able to continue in school while assisting your criminal defense
- Preliminary examination, exposing holes in the prosecution's case like misidentification and failure to document and preserve evidence
- Discovery to obtain the police or prosecution's exonerating and mitigating evidence
- Pretrial conferences to advocate for dismissal of the charge
- Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) diversion to avoid prosecution and conviction
- Pretrial motions asserting your constitutional rights and privileges to suppress evidence and gain dismissal of all charges
- Plea bargain to advocate for voluntary dismissal or reduction of uncertain charges
- Trial advocacy, including direct and cross-examination of witnesses and closing argument
- Post-trial motions for relief from any adverse findings, based on misconduct or errors
- Appeals from any conviction for review and reversal based on a failure of proof or on legal errors
Pennsylvania College and University Alcohol Policies
Criminal charges, though, can be just half the battle. Pennsylvania colleges and universities also maintain their own student policies and procedures relating to alcohol possession and distribution on campus or at off-campus school activities. Penn State University, for example, maintains an administrative policy on Possession, Use, and Distribution of Alcoholic Beverages that begins with a blanket prohibition of alcohol on campus: “The possession, use, distribution, and sale of Alcoholic Beverages is prohibited upon the property of The Pennsylvania State University unless specifically authorized in accordance with this Policy.” See Temple University's similar Drug and Alcohol Policy and the University of Pennsylvania's similar Alcohol and Other Drug Policy. Penn State's policy, like similar policies at other Pennsylvania schools, adds that even if its policy allows alcohol, the student must still strictly comply with other Pennsylvania laws. Penn State's alcoholic beverages policy also expressly warns that the university will refer violators for school administrative disciplinary charges: “Persons, organizations, or groups possessing, using, distributing, or selling Alcoholic Beverages in violation of this Policy, or in violation of the laws of the Commonwealth, will be referred to the appropriate administrative disciplinary mechanism or law enforcement officials.” Penn State's alcoholic beverages policy details these possession and distribution violations:
- All alcohol possession, use, and distribution on campus and at school events unless authorized by an appropriate school official in writing
- Alcohol possession, use, and distribution at any event at which most attendees are underage minors
- Alcohol possession, use, and distribution by outside groups using school facilities
- Sale of alcoholic beverages on campus or at school events unless specially authorized
- Sale or distribution of alcohol to any person appearing to be intoxicated
- Sale or distribution of alcohol before 3 p.m. On any business day
- Possession, use, or distribution of alcohol purchased outside Pennsylvania
Consequences for School Alcohol Violations
The consequences for violating your school's alcohol possession and distribution policies differ from the consequences of a criminal conviction. Your school can't incarcerate you. You may, though, face a monetary fine or may have to pay various costs. But you may also face required alcohol abuse education, loss of housing or other privileges, and even school suspension or expulsion. Temple University's Drug and Alcohol Policy, for example, authorizes sanctions to include “mandatory educational programming, fines greater than $250, disciplinary probation, loss of housing privileges, and other sanctions up to and including expulsion from the university.” Penn State University's Office of Student Affairs, for another example, warns that it may impose a conduct warning, conduct probation, and a $250 accountability course, and notify parents, for a first minor offense, with suspension or expulsion for charges involving disorderly conduct, fights, injuries, property damage, or other disruption.
School Disciplinary Procedures for Alcohol Violations
Pennsylvania colleges and universities follow their own student misconduct procedures, not criminal court procedures when disciplining students for alcohol possession and distribution violations. Temple University's Student Policies and Procedures Manual, incorporating the above alcohol policies at the university, provides a good example of typical school disciplinary procedures. Pennsylvania student discipline and criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento can help you strategically invoke the following procedures at Temple University and other Pennsylvania colleges and universities to help you successfully defend and defeat school alcohol disciplinary charges:
- Answer the disciplinary complaint invoking protective procedures and raising appropriate defenses to the charges
- Discover and evaluate the school's evidence of a disciplinary violation while helping you obtain your own exonerating and mitigating evidence
- Invoking and attending informal resolution conferences with school disciplinary officials to advocate for early dismissal
- Reviewing, correcting, and supplementing the investigation report to ensure that school officials have the full and correct information
- Invoking and attending formal hearings to cross-examine adverse witnesses while presenting defense witnesses and evidence as rules permit
- Appealing any adverse decisions to show bias, conflict of interest, errors in the proceeding, or gaps in credible evidence
- Pursuing alternative special relief through school oversight channels before and after you exhaust formal procedures
Pennsylvania Student Defense Attorney Available
If you face criminal charges and school discipline over alcohol possession or distribution, then retain a premier Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney who is also a highly skilled and experienced school discipline defense attorney. For your best outcome, you need an attorney who knows knows the criminal court procedures and academic administrative proceedings. Pennsylvania student discipline and criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento has both the criminal defense skills and school discipline defense experience in hundreds of cases. Attorney Lento is available whether your campus drinking charge relates to a fraternity or sorority event, tailgating event, or even off-campus drinking at a school event or affecting school activities. Attorney Lento has successfully defended hundreds of students nationwide on alcohol possession and distribution and other disciplinary charges. Retain a premier attorney who has both the student discipline defense experience and criminal defense skills to save your Pennsylvania college or university education. Contact attorney Lento now at 888.535.3686 or go online.