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Alcohol offenses
Much of the crime reported in State College is related to alcohol. Voluntary intoxication is never a defense to a crime. Students who over-imbibe often commit crimes they would not consider doing while sober, like stealing things, damaging property, or trespassing. While we cover alcohol crimes here, unsafe drinking can lead to other criminal activity, which may carry even more severe consequences.
police officer talks to student

No legal advice is provided on this website. Every case is different. For advice about your specific situation, please complete our intake form to request an appointment with an attorney.

This section discusses the legal consequences of some more common alcohol-related offenses, and it is not meant to cover every offense. Penn State students may also face Code of Conduct violations for alcohol offenses, even those that occur off campus. Here's an overview of some of the more common offenses related to alcohol: 

Underage Drinking

The drinking age in Pennsylvania is 21. It is not just illegal to drink when you're under 21, it is also illegal to possess alcohol (e.g. keep it in your room, hold it for someone), to transport alcohol (e.g. drive it in your car, even if someone else in the car is 21), or to attempt to purchase alcohol.

Underage drinking is a summary offense.

It is a 'stacking' offense, meaning the punishment gets worse each time you get one. A first offense is punishable by up to a $500 fine plus a 90-day license suspension, whereas a second offense goes up to a maximum of a $1,000 fine plus one-year license suspension. Underage Drinking is punishable by up to 90 days in jail. If considering a jail sentence, the court will send the defendant a letter before the hearing advising of the risk of jail time and allowing the defendant to obtain counsel.

Many of the local Magisterial District Judges will offer a diversionary program for first offense underage citations. If a diversionary program is offered and accepted, there is usually an educational requirement, the costs and fees associated with the ticket are due, but the fine is not, and the citation is marked as 'dismissed' when the program is successfully completed. The driver's license is still suspended, even with a diversionary program.

An Occupational Limited License (OLL) is only available for a first underage offense. An OLL is a limited license that may allow you to drive to and from work, school, or regularly scheduled medical appointments.

Public Drunkenness

Public drunkenness means:

  1. You're in a public place, and
  2. You've had so much to drink, or used other controlled substances, to the degree that you may have,
    1. endangered yourself,
    2. endangered others,
    3. endangered others' property, or
    4. annoyed people.

Public drunkenness is a summary offense. A first offense carries a maximum fine of $500, a second offense $1,000. Public drunkenness is punishable by up to 90 days in jail. If considering a jail sentence, the court will send the defendant a letter before the hearing advising of the risk of jail time and allowing the defendant to obtain counsel.

Public Urination and Defecation

Public restrooms are available in most parking garages in State College Borough 24/7. The Borough of State College prohibits public urination and defecation. The ordinance provides a fine of not less than $750 for a first offense, and $1,000 for a subsequent offense.

Open Container

The Borough of State College prohibits the possession or transportation of open containers of alcoholic beverages. You cannot possess an open container (beer can, bottle, cup of alcohol) on any public street, sidewalk, park, or alley, or public parking lot/garage (or within a car in a lot garage). The fines are a maximum of $250 for the first offense. Higher fines can be assessed for subsequent offenses within a 120 day period ($500.00 for a second and $1,000 for a third).

Furnishing Alcohol to a Minor

Furnishing alcohol to a minor means to:

  • intentionally or knowingly,
  • sell, furnish, or purchase with the intent to furnish,
  • any liquor or malt or brewed beverage,
  • to a person who is less than 21 years of age.

This is a third-degree misdemeanor. The minimum fine for a first offense is $1,000 and maximum jail time is 1 year.

Consider this:

  1. You don't have to be 21 to be charged with furnishing!
  2. Our local police departments and Liquor Control Enforcement officers monitor and look for suspicious behaviors at distributors, state stores, and other places where students often go to buy alcohol for minors.
  3. If bad things happen to the minor who drank the alcohol, or if the minor causes bad things to happen to other people after drinking the alcohol, the furnisher is at risk for more than just a furnishing charge, they might also be held responsible under civil law for the injuries to the minor and other people or property hurt by the minors actions.
Driving Under the Influence

The legal BAC limit for driving is:

  • Under 21 years = 0.02%
  • 21 and over = 0.08%

DUI laws are not limited to alcohol, it is also illegal to drive when safe driving is impaired by any controlled substance.

There are a variety of levels and penalties for driving under the influence. Charges can range from an ungraded to first-degree misdemeanor. Penalties can include jail time, fines, license suspension, classes and drug and alcohol assessment. The charts below summarize the penalties for DUI:

TIER ONE --§ 3804(a)

TIER TWO --§ 3804(b)

TIER THREE --§ 3804(c)

§ 3802(a)(1)*:

(Gen. Imp. – Unsafe Driving)

*No refusal or accident

§ 3802(a)(1)^:

(Gen. Imp. – Unsafe Driving)

^ w/ accident (specify in charges)

§ 3802(c)

(Highest Rate.: over .16 BAC)

§ 3802(a)(2)

(Gen. Imp.: .08-.10 BAC)

§ 3802(b)

(High Rate.: .10-.16 BAC)

§ 3802(d)

(Controlled Substances)

 

§ 3802(e)

(Minors: .02+ BAC)

 

 

§ 3802(f)

(Commercial & School Vehicles

 

 

TIER ONE:

1st offense:

§ 3804(a)(1)

2nd offense:

§ 3804(a)(2)

3rd & subs. offense:

§ 3804(a)(3)

Grade

M-ungraded

M-ungraded

M2

Statutory Max

6 months probation

6 months jail

2 years jail

Mando Min

n/a

5 days jail

10 days jail

Fine

$300

$300 - $2,500

$500 - $5,000

Treatment

AHSS; CRN; D&A

(if warranted)

AHSS; CRN; D&A

CRN; D&A

Suspension                 

n/a

12 months

12 months

Ignition Interlock

§ 3805

n/a

12 months

(eligible to apply after serving 6 months susp 75 Pa.C.S. 1556(f)(2)(ii))                 

12 months

(eligible to apply after serving 6 months susp 75 Pa.C.S. 1556(f)(2)(ii))                 

TIER TWO:

1st offense:

§ 3804(b)(1)

2nd offense:

§ 3804(b)(2)

3rdoffense:

§ 3804(b)(3)

4th & subs. offense:

§ 3804(b)(4)

Grade

M-ungraded

M-ungraded

M1

M1

Statutory Max

6 months jail

6 months jail

5 years jail

5 years jail

Mando Min

48 hours jail

30 days jail

90 days jail

1 year jail

Fine

$500 - $5,000

$750 - $5,000

$1,500 - $10,000

$1,500 - $10,000

Treatment

AHSS; CRN; D&A

(if warranted)

AHSS; CRN; D&A

CRN; D&A

CRN; D&A

Suspension

12 months

12 months

18 months

18 months

Ignition Interlock

§ 3805

12 months

eligible substitute for DL susp                 

75 Pa.C.S. 1556(f)(2)(i)

12 months

(eligible to apply after serving 6 months of DL Susp – 75 Pa.C.S. 1556(f)(2)(ii))

12 months

(eligible to apply after serving 9 months of DL Susp – 75 Pa.C.S. 1556(f)(2)(iii))

12 months

(eligible to apply after serving 9 months of DL Susp – 75 Pa.C.S. 1556(f)(2)(iii))

 

 

TIER THREE:

1st offense:

§ 3804(c)(1)

2nd offense:

§ 3804(c)(2)

3rd & subs. offense:

§ 3804(c)(3

Grade

M-ungraded

M1

M1

Statutory Max

6 months jail

5 years jail

5 years jail

Mando Min

72 hours jail

90 days jail

1 year jail

Fine

$1,000 - $5,000

$1,500 - $10,000

$2,500 - $10,000

Treatment

AHSS; CRN; D&A

(if warranted or if BAC is .16 or higher

AHSS; CRN; D&A

CRN; D&A

Suspension

12 months

18 months

18 months

Ignition Interlock

§ 3805

12 months – eligible substitute for DL susp

75 Pa.C.S. 1556(f)(2)(i)

12 months

(eligible to apply after serving 9 months of DL Susp – 75 Pa.C.S. 1556(f)(2)(iii))

12 months

(eligible to apply after serving 9 months of DL Susp – 75 Pa.C.S. 1556(f)(2)(iii))

Diversionary programs and levels of offenses

local ordinance violation is a type of summary offense that is defined by a local municipality and enforced only within that municipality, not the state. Common local ordinance provisions are public urination, noise ordinances, and open container rules. On Campus, University Police do not enforce local ordinances; instead, University Police charge individuals with offenses that are defined by state law. The state law offenses frequently concern the same disruptive behaviors that local ordinances are designed to prohibit.

summary offense is the lowest level of criminal offense in Pennsylvania. Unless a person is arrested and booked (fingerprints and mugshots are taken), a summary offense does not appear on the individual's Pennsylvania State Police Criminal History. Pennsylvania employers are not permitted to consider summary offenses when making adverse hiring decisions. Summary offenses can carry jail time of up to 90 days. If the Judge is considering jail time or if there is mandatory jail time, the court must send notice to the defendant before the hearing date and allow the defendant to obtain an attorney (or have an attorney appointed if unable to afford one).

misdemeanor offense is more serious than a summary offense, but less than a felony. Within misdemeanors, there are also levels, with the lowest being ungraded misdemeanors and the highest being first degree misdemeanors. Misdemeanor and felony offenses appear on an individual's Pennsylvania State Police Criminal History if the person is fingerprinted.

The courts will sometimes offer a diversionary program for a first offense. For summary offenses, the availability and conditions of a diversionary program is up to the local Magisterial District Judge in the jurisdiction where the crime occurred. There are three different Magisterial District Judges who serve various parts of campus and the immediately surrounding community, and all have slightly different programs and qualification requirements. There are three other Magisterial District Judges in Centre County, but their jurisdiction covers areas further away from campus.

For misdemeanor offenses, the availability and conditions of a diversionary program is up to the District Attorney. That diversionary program in Centre County is called Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition.

Reviewed: November 22, 2017