At college campuses all over Ohio, for students, even under the age of 21, alcohol is easy to access. Fraternity parties, dorm rooms, off-campus housing, students are drinking without even thinking about the consequences that can reach far into their lives negatively. Not only will they be charged with a misdemeanor, but they might also end up facing the possibility of losing a scholarship, their campus housing and even being a student in the school. If a student is accused of the crime of underage drinking, the best criminal defense attorney should be hired to prevent jeopardizing their entire future.
It is illegal for any minor under the age of 21 years to purchase beer or intoxicating liquor. It is also against the law for someone under 21 years old to consume, possess, handle, or contribute to the purchase of alcohol. If a person is found to be doing any of the above, they may face a Minor in Possession, or MIP, charge. This can mean a misdemeanor charge that carries a fine of up to $1,000, and a potential jail sentence.
If law enforcement happens upon a group of underage drinking, it is best that the students are polite and give police their name, and address. It is not required to give a driver’s license or social security number unless there is an arrest. It is best for the student to ask if they are under arrest or in custody and if not, to ask to leave. If among friends, ask them to witness any conversation had with police. If questions are asked, it’s best to politely ask to speak to a criminal defense attorney before answering. What is the best way to respond in a situation as this?
- The officer can and probably will arrest you anyway. Remember, the police can arrest anyone for anything but unless you’ve done something else to warrant an arrest, they must know at the time of your arrest that you are under 21 before convicting you of underage consumption of alcohol. Mere youthful appearance is not sufficient probable cause to convict!
- Be polite, but firm. You have the right to remain silent so use it. Do not incriminate yourself, and do not try to run away. Simply identify yourself and ask for your attorney.
- The police officer may be angry or threatening. Don’t worry, he/she will not hurt you. Unless you give them the evidence, they cannot convict you. Never lie and always treat the officer with respect. But never admit anything, just remain silent.
- Do not stand near sidewalks or streets with an open container of alcohol. If you are stopped for this or for disorderly conduct, the police officer can seize your ID and will know your age. Know the phone number of someone who is sober to come get you.
- Stay with your friends and witnesses. Travel in groups. Police officers look for people who are walking alone and appear to be intoxicated. Avoid looking suspicious – don’t hide the alcohol.
- Being arrested does not mean you will be convicted! Follow the above rules, and you may be able to beat the charges against you if the arrest was unlawful. When you go to your first court date, DO NOT PLEAD GUILTY. Ask the court for more time to discuss your case with your attorney.
The Bottom Line: Mistakes happen every single day on college campuses. Underage drinking convictions can be avoided. At