As law enforcers on a college campus, UTPD officers are highly aware of the impact alcohol charges can have on a student’s future — something the officers take into account when dealing with underage drinkers, according to officer Jimmy Moore.
Moore said arrests for underage drinking are made at the discretion of the officer, but law enforcement will opt for more lenient options if possible, Moore said.
“Our officers are trained, and they know that they are dealing with kids for the most part, and they can get a sense of if someone knows they did something wrong,” Moore said. “Officers try to make the appropriate decision depending on what’s going on.”
Consumption of alcohol under the age of 21 is a Class C misdemeanor, which guarantees a citation and fine of up to $500. Additionally, underage students caught drinking will be referred to the Dean of Students, who can then mandate an 8-hour drug and alcohol class and 20 hours of community service.
Moore said a student’s underage status does not guarantee leniency.
“Just because you’re a minor doesn’t mean you’re only going to get a citation,” Moore said.
A public relations freshman, whose name has been kept anonymous, said she was attempting to leave a party earlier this semester when she and her friends, all of whom were minors, were confronted by a UTPD officer who gave them citations.
She was required to complete 12 hours of community service and complete an alcohol education class, which cost her $50. She was also fined $150.
That will not keep her from drinking illegally in the future, she said.
“I was shaken up for a few weeks,” she said. “But then I realized it was such a chance encounter that I feel like it won’t happen again … I’ll just be more careful afterward.”
Organizations such as Know Your Line, a campaign run out of University Health Services, try to reach students before they have a run-in with the law.
“It’s about helping students who do choose to drink alcohol do so in a way that reduces negative outcomes,” said Guli Fager, University Health Services health education coordinator.
The penalty adults face for serving alcohol to underage students is stiffer than the penalty those students face for actually drinking alcohol. Violators can face fines of up to $4,000 and up to one year in prison — but UTPD typically does not track down individuals or establishments that sell alcohol to minors, Moore said.
“We include information about where they got the drinks in the report, but it doesn’t necessarily mean we’re going to go to that bar and start trying to find out who sold them the drink,” Moore said. “It all depends on the situation.”