Underage drinking prevalent on college campuses
When charged with an MIP, the student will be referred to the Office of Student Conduct.
Oct. 12, 2015
Underage college students often run the risk of being arrested and charged with a minor in possession. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse, 80 percent of college students consume alcohol.
Consumption is not absent from MU’s campus. According to the MU Police Department 2013 annual clery report, the MUPD arrested a total of 652 students for liquor and drug law violations.
Coming across intoxicated students is not uncommon, MUPD Maj. Brian Weimer said, and at times he will come across several students per night.
“Other than by consumption, students may be found stumbling or passed out, indicating they are in possession,” Weimer said. “Once (the student) is suspected (of possession), I’ll tell them to stop and conduct the investigation. If found in possession, they will be cited and arrested. Then the court will decide the punishment.”
Every year at her law firm, attorney Jennifer Bukowsky said she sees dozens of MU students cited for MIPs. Often times, she said students could make small adjustments to avoid being arrested.
“Try to make sure you’re not in a situation where you’re more likely to come into contact with law enforcement,” Bukowsky said. “If you do find yourself in that circumstance, just be careful and mindful of what you say to the police officer.”
When a police officer stops a student or questions them about their alcohol consumption, the student is free to leave or ask for an attorney. Bukowsky said an important point students often forget is that under the Fifth Amendment, students have the right to not incriminate themselves. Because of this, they will often freely give up information that they do not have to.
“It’s a common problem,” Bukowsky said. “They’ll say what they drank, how many they drank, they’ll blow into the machine, they’ll do the horizontal gaze and stagnant test. They’ll help the officer build the case to prove their guilt. That’s fairly common and then there's not much we can do about it.”
Weimer said some students are under the misconception that MUPD arrests carry lighter charges than the Columbia Police Department.
“Both the CPD and the MUPD charge students in the same way,” Weimer said. “MUPD will also refer students to (the Office of Student Conduct). Different substances, like alcohol and marijuana, fall under different ordinances so there are different charges for arrest. Punishments can vary from fines, to community service, to license suspensions.”
Although it is important to be mindful of actions and rights before being arrested, steps can also be taken after being arrested to help fight an MIP charge, Bukowsky said. There are times when police officers will fall into error and violate the student’s constitutional rights simply by talking to them.
“We’ve had a lot of cases like that, where, say, (police officers) went into a garage where they had no right to be; we can suppress that evidence they obtained,” Bukowsky said. “They searched private, protected areas without just cause to do so. Those are situations where we can get cases kicked and evidence suppressed.”
Because of the nuances of the charge and the possibility of reducing the punishment or charge, Bukowsky said, it is important to have a lawyer when arrested for an MIP.
“It’s wise to have someone look over the charge,” Bukowsky said. “A lot of students want to go to medical school, law school and are worried about the consequences (of an MIP) to their record. We can influence the timing and the nature of the charge you ultimately end up having, and perhaps get a different charge or perhaps help expunge your charge. Their is a number of things that can be done to help protect your criminal record in future.”