Each year, around this time, with college students arriving back on campuses, I receive a myriad of phone calls from college students concerning various summary offenses they received on their first few days back on campus. These summary offenses range from citations for alleged Public Drunkenness (18 Pa.C.S.A. 5505), Underage Drinking (18 Pa.C.S.A. 6308), and Disorderly Conduct (18 Pa.C.S.A. 5503).
These calls often lead to questions regarding whether the officer had a right to stop the student at the outset. There are three categories of interactions between citizens and police. The first is a mere encounter which may be supported by any level of suspicion, but carries no official compulsion to stop or respond. The second is an investigative detention which must be supported by reasonable suspicion; it subjects a suspect to a stop and detention but it does not involve such conditions as to constitute the functional equivalent of an arrest. Finally, an arrest or custodial detention must be supported by probable cause. Generally speaking, most interactions between a university officer and a student, which ultimately lead to a citation, requires the officer to show that he had reasonable suspicion to stop the student at the outset of the interaction. In other words, an officer must have reasonable belief that the student was consuming alcohol, before a stop and investigation can occur.
In Commonwealth v. Wood, 833 A.2d 740 (Pa.Super.2003, aff’d, 580 Pa. 561, 862 A.2d 589 (2004), for example, police officers walked into a bar and “carded” and detained any bar patron that appeared to be under the age of 21. After this detention, Ms. Wood made a statement that she had not been drinking at the bar, but had been drinking earlier that evening. The Superior Court of Pennsylvania determined that police lacked reasonable suspicion to detain Ms. Wood without any observation of the consumption, possession, or purchasing of an alcoholic beverage. Because the initial stop was illegal, her resulting statement could not be used against her and the citation, therefore, was dismissed.
In the event you or your son or daughter has been charged with public drunkenness or underage drinking at Millersville University or any other college campus, do not simply plead guilty, but rather speak to an experienced Millersville, PA DUI lawyer and Underage Drinking attorney immediately. The penalties for a conviction for an underage drinking charge in Millersville, PA are severe and include a license suspension of 90 days for first offense, one (1) year for a second offense and two(2) years for a third or subsequent offense.