Many Penn State students understand the significant risks of driving while under the influence. The penalties resulting from getting behind the wheel while intoxicated can not only include criminal consequences, but also the threat of injuring others or causing substantial property damage.
With this in mind, many students wisely consider alternatives to getting themselves home from a party or night out in State College. However, too many students, both those underage and above 21, choose to walk home from a party. When you encounter a cop on your way home, you could face charges for underage drinking, public drunkenness or more, all because you opted to make a more responsible choice.
What to know about summary offenses
Underage drinking and public drunkenness charges are both summary offenses, the state’s lowest level of criminal offenses. While these offenses may sidestep your criminal record, the penalties can still be steep. Underage drinking charges can result in fines up to $500 and a 90-day license suspension for a first offense, with consequences worsening with subsequent offenses.
Public drunkenness occurs when you are perceived to be:
- Endangering others or yourself. Whether you threaten others or could put yourself or others in serious harm, you could face charges.
- Putting the property of others at risk. This could include battering, defacing or otherwise endangering another’s car, home, fence or other property.
- Annoying others. You don’t have to harm someone else or their property to face charges. Annoying others with loud, drunken behavior may be enough.
Consequences for public drunkenness charges include fines of up to $500 for a first offense, $1,000 for a second offense and more. You could also face up to 90 days in a Pennsylvania jail.
Your options to avoid consequences
Whether walking by yourself or with a group of friends, anything from seemingly harmless to obnoxious behavior could give a police officer reason to question you. For example, carrying your shoes, loudly talking with friends late at night or more could lead an officer to believe you had too much to drink.
Before you go out, discuss with friends how you will get back to your dorm, apartment or more at the end of the night. Whether you decide to take a taxi or rideshare service together or designate a sober driver, make a plan to avoid potentially facing criminal penalties.