Students have returned to Colleges and Universities all over the country for another academic year. This means a return to campus, friends and partying. Law enforcement is also out in force around campus knowing that students are returning. New Freshman and even returning students should be particularly aware during this time of typical police investigations of underage drinking of college students, including policing and ID checking in bars close to campus, patrolling football tailgating, and DUI checkpoints on roads surrounding campus.
Underage drinking or possessing alcohol as a minor is a crime – normally just a misdemeanor, but still a crime nonetheless. If a student is caught by police (as opposed to university officials) and charged by arrest or citation with underaged drinking this requires a court appearance and must be properly addressed. Many times the student or the parent do not think this is “a big deal” because perhaps the student wasn’t physically arrested and sent to jail – so they believe it is like a traffic ticket. Many times the student or parent believes that when they show up for court everything will be “explained” to them and they don’t need an attorney. This is absolutely NOT correct! First, any criminal charge – even the most minor can appear on the student’s permanent criminal record and is therefore serious. Also court personnel is not provided to answer legal questions when you arrive at the court house for your hearing. The only person who can properly advise you and help you is your own attorney. For this reason I always recommend that a young, naive college student who is unfamiliar with the court process should have an attorney anytime they are charged with a crime – no matter how minor.