Students cited for underage drinking violations can face a wide range of penalties at both the University and state level, but there are also multiple resources available to them to manage these penalties.
If a student is suspected of an underage drinking violation, UTPD officers will issue a citation or refer them to the Dean of Students, said David Carter, the University of Texas Police Chief.
“It could be either one depending on circumstance,” Carter said. “If it was an aggravated situation, the officer has the discretion to issue (a citation) but they can also refer them to the Dean of Students.”
UTPD made seven arrests and referred 110 students to the Dean of Students for on-campus liquor law violations in 2017, according to the 2018 Annual Security and Fire Safety Report. These violations include three class C misdemeanors — minor in consumption of alcohol, minor in possession of alcohol and misrepresentation of age.
Sylvia Holmes, assistant director of Legal Services for Students, said students have three options: deferred disposition, plead guilty or plead not guilty and go to trial.
Deferred disposition is offered to everyone after their first underage drinking offense and involves paying up to $125, taking an alcohol awareness class and doing up to 25 hours of community service. A guilty plea involves paying up to $500, taking an alcohol awareness class, doing up to 40 hours of community service and temporarily losing one’s drivers license.
“Students take the deferral 99 percent of the time,” Holmes said. “Unless my student is innocent, there is zero reason to go to trial. And if they’re innocent, we can almost always prove that in other ways.”
Holmes said students who go through the deferred disposition process can ask to get a ticket expunged two years later so all court records of the charge are erased.
Andel Fils-Aime, director of the Office of Student Conduct and Academic Integrity, said when a student is referred to their office by UTPD or other organizations, they will discuss the alleged incident before potentially issuing sanctions, ranging from a warning to suspension from the University.
“These sanctions provide the students with a learning opportunity,” Fils-Aime said. “We want to help connect students to campus resources that can mitigate or minimize any risky behavior that they might be involved in.”
If students are not suspended, they may be required to take the Brief Alcohol Screening and Intervention for College Students program by the prevention branch of University Health Services and the Counseling and Mental Health Center.
Brittany O’Malley, assistant director for prevention and well-being for UHS and the CMHC, said the BASICS program offers two sessions to reduce the risk of future harm to themselves or others.
“We want students to be successful while they’re here and we want them to learn through a moment where they may have had a challenge,” O’Malley said.
UT senior, Sarah — whose last name was removed to protect her privacy — said she asked for the deferred disposition and completed the BASICS program after receiving a minor in possession citation.
“I was really upset (when I got the ticket) because I don’t normally party or drink,” Sarah said. “But the programs were helpful to people who need it and I learned a lot about alcohol. I definitely didn’t drink anywhere afterwards.”