School is back in session, and fall semesters come with the promise of exciting events, new adventures and a slew of parties. It's important to make the most of the college experience and live well, but it is also important to stay safe. Many events will come with an opportunity to drink, so if you are underage or might consider providing alcohol to someone who is, you should reconsider just how much you are risking. Take another look at the most commonly abused liquor laws and just how much a violation can really hurt.
It's common knowledge that driving under the influence is a serious crime and very dangerous. You may not know that minors in most states have a much lower legal limit than drinking-age adults. That said, the most common infraction relating to minors and alcohol is a Minor in Possession (MIP) charge. Convictions of this misdemeanor can include a suspension of driver's license, fines of $500 or more, community service, enrollment in alcohol education courses and even jail time. It's also important to understand just how easy it is to commit this crime, even unintentionally. To be a minor in possession, one does not have to consume any alcohol. In fact, even sealed bottles and containers are enough to be charged.
Many people commit this crime without being fully aware. A minor driving a vehicle with alcohol in it can be considered in possession, even if they had no intention of consuming. Adults (21 years or older) who contribute to minors being in possession are also guilty. If a legal adult purchases alcohol for minors, they have committed a crime, but they are also potentially liable for any damage or injuries caused by those minors while under the influence.
Campuses across the country have redoubled efforts to put an end to underage drinking, and Pennsylvania has not fallen behind. Penn State has issued multiple campus-wide warnings about increased security and efforts. In 2016 alone, charges have been brought against fraternities. Even at the Pitt vs. Penn State football game there were 34 citations and 3 arrests, all pertaining to alcohol laws.
Penn Tech has also moved forward with a severe crackdown. In 2015, the college reported a total of 337 citations relating to drugs and alcohol. Of those 224 were liquor-law violations. The president has responded to the numbers with a campus-wide letter, outlining just how serious efforts are and will remain to stop underage drinking and alcohol abuse.
College is expensive. Drinking underage is riskier than ever, and heavy fines won't make paying for school any easier. Worse than that, the potential for jail time is real, and it's a sure fire way to be kicked out of school. Of course, none of that compares to the ultimate risks associated with alcohol. There is a reason these laws exist, so stay safe this semester.