June 19, 2018
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Aroostook County cracks down on underage drinking

By Eric Russell, Special to the BDN

A very exciting time of year is now upon us and for many of the young people in Aroostook County. Students are heading off to college to further themselves and their careers. For many this will be a time of experimentation, which often means trying new things, and that often includes alcohol. But irresponsible college drinking can get you arrested, and the consequences could haunt you for years.

It’s not just college students under 21 who need to be concerned. Students over the legal drinking age can also be held liable for alcohol violations, by themselves and by others.

Here are five ways illegal drinking can get you arrested:

1. Underage possession or consumption. Underage drinking is a perceived rite of passage, but it comes with big risks. There’s always the possibility of fines, community service and a mark on your criminal history. No person under 21 is permitted to purchase or consume alcohol.

2. Drunken driving. Anyone who drives with a blood alcohol level of .08 or higher, and for minors anything above zero, can be charged with operating under the influence. Penalties can include jail time, hefty fines, driver license suspensions and the installation of an ignition interlock device. Repeat offenders and those who get into crashes or cause injury or death can fare far worse.

3. Public intoxication and disorderly conduct. These catch-all crimes punish unruly or obnoxious behavior, and are commonly used against drunken college students. The hallways and study lounges of a residence hall also count as public spaces.

4. Furnishing a place or alcohol. No person may furnish, sell or provide alcohol to a person under 21. Allowing a person under 21 to possess or consume alcohol in any place under one’s control is illegal.

5. Social host laws. Holding a house party where alcohol is served opens the door to potential legal liability. Laws may hold you responsible for drunken guests who drive away from your party and end up hurting someone. Hosts can face potential liability for failing to supervise their parties, especially if someone is hurt. Even if the owner of the home is not present, they can still be held liable for what went on while they were gone. In Maine this can mean a lawsuit for damages up to $350,000 plus medical expenses.

If you’re reading this and wondering why the penalties can sometimes be so severe, then you probably have lived a blessed life where you have never met anyone who has been hurt or killed by alcohol. Improper use and consumption of alcohol often can lead to the loss of life. And if not, the ramifications of hurting someone, a lawsuit, or a ruined career path can carry lifelong consequences. It’s not worth the risk.

And if you are 21 and older and are going to consume alcohol, stop and plan your night. Where are you going? Who are you going with? How are you getting there and how are you getting home?

During Wave 4 of the campaign happening in Aroostook County, “Underage Drinking. Adult

Consequences,” we want to remind everyone that underage drinking is illegal and something

schools, communities, and law enforcement are taking seriously. There are serious consequences associated with breaking Maine alcohol laws, especially if one chooses to drive after consuming.

Eric Russell is the assistant director of residence life for the University of Maine at Fort Kent and a proud supporter of Community Voices.

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