As students prepare to embark on the Spring semester’s syllabus week, it is important to understand some of the recent changes to Pennsylvania law with regard to drinking violations.
Along with the new year comes new, harsher, penalties for alcohol violations in Pennsylvania. Specifically, there have been increases to the fines levied against those caught drinking underage. Previously, the maximum penalty was a $300 fine, however the new law stipulates a $500 fine for a first time offender and a $1,000 fine for a second offense. The Centre Daily Times outlines the impact of the recent legislation.
Prior to the new law, the more manageable $300 fine was adopted in the 1970’s and had not been updated since. According to state senator Jake Corman, the underage fine set at 1970’s levels–adjusted for inflation–would equal $1,650 today. Given this figure, one could argue that the “stiffer” fines are actually less severe than those imposed on our demographic 40 years ago.
Additionally, there has been an increased emphasis on cracking down on alcohol consumption in college communities, so one could argue the penalties should increase in tandem with the growing problem.
In a community with relatively low non-alcohol related crime, there should be a responsible way to overcome the substantial costs associated with drinking in the State College community. While underage drinking is only one of the issues, it is however one of the areas where authorities and university officials bear a significant percentage of the burden. Most students spend a significant portion of their years in Happy Valley under age 21, and according to police chief Tom King, more than two-thirds of all crimes are alcohol-related.
If the police are responding regularly to calls involving alcohol, and increased police are ushered in for major football weekends and events like State Patty’s day, isn’t it only fair that the offenders should pay for the increased presence their behavior is creating a need for? If not them, then who — only taxpayers?
Do you think the fine increases are reasonable given the burden associated with local governments and municipalities absorbing the costs–indirectly or not– of alcohol consumption? Let us know in the comments.