Auburn Football Player Charged With Marijuana Possession Days After Attending DARE Program

For those that don’t know, DARE stands for Drug Abuse Resistance Education and was an anti-drug program created in the 1980’s under the Reagan Administration’s War on Drugs. The program has been taught to elementary and high school students by law enforcement officers since then. You can imagine that the police would seek volunteers from the community that would be respected by the kids, such as local college football players. Some Auburn football players recently volunteered to help put on a DARE program in Alabama.  In an ironic twist, one of the players, an anticipated starting safety, was caught recently a passenger in a car in which a police officer smelled marijuana. After smelling marijuana in the car that was stopped for speeding, the officer allegedly noticed marijuana shake on the player’s lap and a bag of weed nearby. The player was later charged with marijuana possession and was released on a $3,000.00 bond.

College Students and Marijuana Possession – Criminal Charges and School Sanctions

I have represented many Lock Haven, Juniata, and Penn State-University Park as well as Penn State-Altoona students that have been charged with marijuana possession and its related friend, Possession of Drug Paraphernalia under 35 P.S. § 780-113(a)(32). The severity of marijuana possession charges is based upon whether the person possessed the weed with the intent to smoke it or whether the student possessed it with the intent to deliver or distribute it. Delivery and possession with intent to deliver charges under 35 P.S. § 780-113(a)(30) are felony charges, whereas marijuana possession under either 35 P.S. § 780-113(a)(31) or (a)(16) are both misdemeanor charges.

When a college student is charged with criminal offenses, the school often conducts their own investigation through its disciplinary process. For example, Penn State has a Code of Student Conduct that is very similar to Pennsylvania criminal laws. When a student violates the code of conduct, the school may impose a punishment. Many students and their parents are surprised to discover that the fact that the alleged activity occurred off campus does not matter. Schools can punish a student for violating the code of conduct anywhere and not just for a violation committed on campus. When the conduct occurs off campus, it is more likely that the Office of Student Conduct will not discover the violations. However, in Centre County, the local police departments, including State College, Patton, and Ferguson Township, normally send notification the filing of criminal charges to the Office of Student Conduct at Penn State. With crimes committed on campus, the Penn State Police Department also sends a referral of the incident to student conduct.

Students and parents are also surprised to discover that the penalties for the criminal system and student conduct do not overlap or coordinate. For example, a person charged with Underage Drinking may be required by the court to take an alcohol education class called the Youthful Offender Program (YOP), and Penn State Office of Student Conduct will required completion of a different alcohol program called BASICS. Both programs cost approximately $200.00 each. YOP is a 4-session, 15 hour program, while YOP is often approximately 2 to 3 hours over 2 sessions. So the student made the bad decision to drink Underage, and the student must take 2 classes, spend a considerable amount of time away from studying, and pay substantial monetary costs for the classes.

Pennsylvania ARD Program

Many first-time offenders of misdemeanor marijuana possession have their criminal charges resolved via participation in the Centre County Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program. The program can be described as a pre-trial probation without verdict program, which means that the participant pleads not guilty to the charge but accepts a punishment from the court. If the participant completes the program, then the charges can be dismissed and expunged. In a marijuana possession case, Centre County often imposes a punishment that includes 12 months of supervision by the probation department, one day of community service, payment of approximately $1,400.00, and possibly completion of counseling. With regard to Penn State, a marijuana possession misconduct allegation often results in the imposition of a semester or two of disciplinary probation and successful completion of a marijuana education program, such as the Marijuana Intervention Program (MIP). The court system does not accept completion of the MIP program to satisfy a counseling requirement, so the student would need to complete another program to satisfy the ARD requirement. While it may not be fair that a student gets punished twice for the same conduct, that is how the process is and has been for many years, and it is unlikely to change in the near future.