Penn State Wrestler Should Receive Same Treatment in State College DUI Case

A very prominent Penn State wrestler was recently arrested for suspicion of driving under the influence in State College, and a blood test showed that his blood alcohol level was a .281%. When I saw a “prominent” wrestler, you do not get much better than being a two-time national champion that is currently pursuing a third individual championship and helping the Penn State wrestling  team garner a fourth consecutive team championship. While the wrestler is top notch in his field, I hope that he is treated the same as every other Penn State student that is charged with criminal offenses in Centre County and must also go through the school’s disciplinary system.

Two Punishments for One Incident for Penn State Students

Fair or not, most Penn State students that are charged with a criminal offense must go through both the criminal process and Penn State’s disciplinary process. Many students are not aware that the student code of conduct covers the actions of students regardless of where they are, which means that the students can be punished for incidents that occur off campus. In a normal DUI case, assuming the individual was not in trouble in the past, it is likely that a Penn State University Park student would be placed on disciplinary probation for a semester or two and would be required to complete an alcohol education or counseling program. The Penn State disciplinary records are not publicly accessible, but they can be accessed by organizations within the school system, such as the wrestling program. The wrestling program imposes their own punishment by suspending the wrestler for a period of time. In the recent past, I represented one of the cheerleaders that furnished alcohol to another cheerleader that later fell 7 stories out of a window and was severely injured. In that case, the cheerleaders were actually kicked off the cheerleading squad as an additional punishment.

First-Time DUI Offender and Centre County ARD Program

Many routine first-time offenses of driving under the influence in Pennsylvania are resolved via participation in a program called Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition, or ARD. ARD is a pretrial diversionary program that requires a person to complete certain requirements and comply with conditions imposed by the court in exchange for a dismissal of the charges. While completion of the ARD program allows for the dismissal and expungement of the criminal charges, when the charge is a DUI, ARD participation does count as a first offense. Therefore, if the person were  charged with another offense of drunk driving in Pennsylvania within the next 10 years, the new offense is likely to be treated as a second offense. All second offenses of DUI impose mandatory sentences of incarceration, fines, license suspensions, and installation of an interlock system upon restoration of driving privileges. The criminal record in the ARD case can be expunged, but a notation of the ARD resolution will remain on the person’s Pennsylvania driving record for at least the next 10 years, and it is through the driving record that the police can readily discover the prior DUI offense.

What is Required in Centre County ARD Cases?

While the wrestler had a high blood alcohol level of .281%, he should be approved to participate in the Centre County ARD program. I have represented many clients with similar charges and higher levels of alcohol that were permitted to participate in the program. If approved for ARD, I expect that the Nittany Lion wrestler would be required to complete 12 months of supervision by the probation department, complete 1 day of community service in Centre County, endure a 60-day suspension of Pennsylvania driving privileges, complete alcohol counseling, pass the Alcohol Highway Safety School (DUI class), complete a secondary treatment program called C-CERT, refrain from drinking alcohol, and pay approximately $2,500.00 in ARD costs and fees.

Hopefully, this wrestler is treated the same as every other person would be treated in Centre County. Because the matter is a little more high profile, I do NOT believe that the individual will receive more lenient treatment, but I do have concerns that he could be treated more severely in an attempt to make an example of him. In my opinion, he has already been punished more severely as he was suspended from the wrestling team for a period of time and his name has been spread across the national news media. His criminal charges may be expunged in the future, but he cannot remove his name and the fact that charges were filed from the databases of Google or newspapers, so this incident will follow him for a long time.