While there are worse calls you can get from your child in college, this one happens all too often for parents of college age kids and can create many issues for your family.  Many of us drank alcohol while in college, therefore, we must come to terms with the reality our children may as well.  The best prevention is education and preparation.

Underage Drinking in Pennsylvania and at college also puts your child at risk for other difficult and dangerous situations including: driving under the influence, alcohol poisoning, and sexual assault.  In future posts, I will talk about some of these other situations, but for today, I am strictly discussing underage drinking.

An underage drinking charge is upsetting and frustrating but know that this charge will not create a permanent criminal record, and a life of crime and unemployment. In Pennsylvania, an underage drinking arrest is referred to as a “Non-Traffic Summary;” therefore, it is very similar to a traffic ticket (speeding, no turn on red, etc.).  Your little angel will not be at risk of “25 to life”!

Aside from telling your child to not drink or at least be discreet and safe about it: (1) not to leave their dorm or apartment door wide open while on their couch with a case of Miller Lite on their lap, (2) not to wander the halls or the campus while visibly intoxicated, (3) not to draw attention to themselves (yelling, fighting, etc.),  you also need to share with them the possible and probable consequences if they do get caught drinking underage.

An underage drinking arrest/citation may result in:

  1. Fines and Court Costs in the hundreds of dollars
  2. Community Service
  3. Mandatory Alcohol Abuse and Safety Classes
  4. College/University Probation
  5. In extreme cases a period of incarceration

Depending on the college/university your teenager is attending, an underage drinking case may result in:

  1. Appearance before a school disciplinary board;
  2. Possible expulsion from school and revocation of scholarship(s);
  3. Suspension from a sports team or other extracurricular activity

So, you have been a model parent and provided your college bound teenager with this information; however, despite such, the phone call still comes.  What do you do next . .

1. Do not panic!

2. Make sure you respond immediately all court notices instructions on the citation/ticket your child

3. Contact an attorney with experience in underage drinking matters. Maybe someone with the first name Paul and last name Peters.  All joking aside, go with someone you trust and are comfortable with.  It is important that the attorney be experienced in these types of cases, but it is also important for you and your child to connect with them so you can all be open, honest and cooperative in resolving the matter.

4. Be aware of the language you use toward your child and try to show support and the opportunity for forgiveness. Underage drinking is something many of us did in college without getting caught, and is a risk that arises when sending teenagers off to college. Kids can and will make mistakes like underage drinking.  This sort of citation is not a reflection on their character or of their future potential.  It is a consequence of a bad choice.

Until next time . . . (Next week I will discuss the importance of a Burial Directive and Will)

  • Paul