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College has started, meaning possible alcohol penalties

Many college students drink heavily while in school. This can result in underage alcohol and drunk driving charges.

The start of a new college year has already begun for students in Virginia and across the country. While this is an exciting time of year for many, college life can create numerous opportunities for legal trouble. This may be especially true for underage students where alcohol is concerned.

According to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles, those with first drunk driving offenses in Virginia face serious penalties, including a maximum of 12 months in jail, a minimum fine of $250 and a driver's license revocation of one year. The consequences are significantly higher for subsequent convictions.

Many social reasons for college drinking

The possible consequences, however, do not deter many young college students from what they consider to be a rite of passage. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism states that many students under the age of 21 become involved in heavy drinking during the first few weeks of their first semester at college. Additionally, about 3,360,000 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 drink and drive.

There is no shortage of opportunities for underage college students to be found in possession of alcohol. According to the Prevention Resource Center, common university drinking activities include the following:

  • Sporting events
  • Fraternity and sorority parties
  • Initiation events
  • Low-key drinking in dormitories or residence halls
  • Bar-hopping near the campus

In addition to drunk driving, students may be accused of other alcohol-related crimes, including possession of alcoholic beverages manufacturing or possessing a false ID, public intoxication and sexual offenses.

Parents may help prevent serious consequences

Although they may consider their college-age children adults, parents can still take an active role in their children's lives and possibly reduce the chances of an alcohol-related charge. It may help for parents to check in with their children often while they are away at school. A simple phone call, email or text message may make a difference. It might also be wise to outline expectations and rules before a son or daughter goes away to school. For example, a parent may choose to visit the school or withhold financial assistance if a child's grades begin to drop without an acceptable explanation. Parents who let their offspring know that they are there to talk, no matter the time or reason, may improve their chances of catching an alcohol problem before it gets out of hand, to keep their children safe and to avoid possible criminal charges.

Many students will make the choice to drink with their peers, regardless of whether they are old enough to legally do so. It may be necessary to speak with an experienced Fairfax DUI defense attorney for those who are facing underage and related alcohol charges.

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