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Drunk College Student Turn Pumpkin Festival Into Riot

New Hampshire residents near Keene celebrate an annual pumpkin festival at which attendees try to set a world record of the largest number of carved and lighted jack-o-lanterns in one place. Sounds like it would be a nice family gathering. It just so happens that students from nearby Keene State College also attend. Regrettably, a few of the students had too much to drink this past year, got out of hand, and wrecked the festival by basically starting a riot. According to onlookers, some people started throwing rocks, skateboards, buckets, and not so surprisingly, pumpkins. Aside from throwing things, the crowd also flipped over a car, tore down street signs, and set some fires in the streets.  Police responded in riot gear and tried to disperse the crowds with tear gas.

According to the online article, the local police department responded to 235 calls between 2:30 a.m. Friday and 3:30 a.m. Sunday and made at least 49 arrests. Not so surprisingly, many of the offenses were alcohol related, probably Underage Drinking, Public Drunkenness, Disorderly Conduct, and Resisting Arrest. The police and the school are also reviewing photos and videos of the mayhem to identify other people and students that were involved, so additional charges could be forthcoming. On a more positive note, approximately 200 volunteers from the university showed up Sunday morning to clean up the mess.

State College Riot Incidents

Sadly, the above fact pattern sounds eerily similar to the first riot that occurred many years ago in Centre County when drunk college students attended the annual Arts Festival in State College, and the drunken activity of the student got out of hand. The combination of an excessive amount of alcohol and a mob mentality produced a very bad outcome in Happy Valley. Fires in the streets, cars being flipped, broken windows, and property damage downtown made for a very bad event back in 1998 that caused over $150,000.00 worth of damage. Over the years, there have been numerous riots in near Penn State, sometimes resulting from great football victories, like the victory over Ohio State in 2008, or negative events like the firing of Joe Paterno in 2011. The 2011 riot caused an estimated $190,000.00 in damage.

First Time Offender Programs - ARD

Many of the participants in these incidents are good kids, even if their actions at the time do not evidence their overall character. Many of the Penn State students that participate in such events have never been in trouble before, have solid grade point averages, and are members of Penn State University honor colleges and programs. Simply stated, they are not the type of kids that anyone would expect to participate in a riot or otherwise refuse to disperse when told to do so by police officers.

Despite the fact that many of these students have never been in trouble, many are not approved to participate in first time offender program like ARD. Under such programs, a participant accepts a punishment from the court, such as community service, payment of court costs, supervision by the probation department, and completion of counseling in exchange for a dismissal of the charges upon completion of the program. Participation in such programs is generally determined by the district attorney and not the judge, and an applicant does not have a right to be admitted into a program. Just being a first time offender does not guarantee approval. In Centre County, first time offenders of DUI, marijuana possession, Possession of a Fake ID, Furnishing Alcohol to Minors, and Possession of Drug Paraphernalia are often approved to participate in ARD. People charged with offenses like drug delivery, Possession With Intent to Deliver, Simple Assault, and Retail Theft are currently denied ARD participation as the Centre County District Attorney simply refuses to admit such person into the ARD program. Such cases may be approved to participate in ARD in other counties, but every county prosecutor has his or her own rules and are not bound by the decisions of their peers. Generally speaking, the district attorney can admit or deny ARD participation for any person as long as the decision is not based upon the applicant's race, gender, or sexual orientation. This obviously gives the prosecutor a tremendous amount of power over the life of a first time offender.

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