Stephen Wolfe Jan. 6, 2016

College is a key time for testing the limits of new experiences and taking risks. And of course for many students, underage drinking is part of this testing and risk taking.

To be sure, most students have already been exposed to alcoholic beverages while in high school. But college raises the ante, with alcohol often a lubricant in a new, high-pressure social scene where parents are no longer present.

But what happen, in testing the limits, when you get in trouble with the law? Or, if you are a parent reading this, if your son or daughter gets in trouble? In this post, we will inform you about some of the consequences for underage drinking in Ohio.

How old you are makes a big difference

Let's be clear about what we mean by underage drinking. It is not exactly synonymous with the term "minor in possession" of alcohol. This is because a minor is someone who is under 18, but the legal drinking age in Ohio is 21.

The penalties for many alcohol-related offenses therefore vary depending on whether you are under 18 or are between 18 and 21. In practice, this means that the fines and potential incarceration time are both greater if you are between 18 and 21 than they would be if you are under 18.

This applies to offenses that include:

  • Possession or consumption of alcohol

  • Purchase of alcohol

  • Furnishing alcohol to minors

  • Using a false ID to get alcohol

  • Operating a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol content of more than .02

What about binge drinking?

Much is made in the media of binge drinking on campus. (This is typically defined as five or more drinks at one setting.)

It's true that many college students have participated in this activity. But if it occurs on someone's 21st birthday, it does not necessarily any legal consequences.

It would be a different scenario, though, if underage people are present. The same is true if the drinking is followed by impaired driving or leads to another offense, such as disorderly conduct or assault.

Academic consequences

Criminal prosecution for an underage alcohol offense is difficult enough to deal with. But it isn't the only conceivable consequence for underage drinking. Another is possible discipline from your college or university for violation of the school's policy on alcohol and other drugs.

At The Ohio State University, if you are 21 or older you can legally possess and consume alcohol in your room. After a recent policy change, the university now allows alcohol sales at football, basketball and hockey games.

But Ohio State still has many restrictions on alcohol. Some violations can result in criminal charges. There may also be academic consequences, starting with campus disciplinary sanctions. Those sanctions can range from written warnings to probation, suspension or even dismissal.

A high-profile case example

The high-profile case of Buckeye quarterback J.T. Barrett's drunk-driving arrest last fall is one example of how the consequences of underage drinking can play out. Barrett was only 20 when he was pulled over and found it be over the .08 limit that applies to people who are 21 and over.

In the criminal justice system, he pleaded guilty to first-time OVI and was sentenced to a driver intervention program that lasts three days. He also lost his driver's license for six months. But there were also consequences at Ohio State itself, where he lost some of his financial aid and was suspended from the football team for one game.

Get the legal counsel you need

In short, there are many possible consequences for underage drinking, especially in a college setting. At Wolfe Van Wey & Associates, LLC, we stand ready to protect your rights with skilled and proactive representation.