Pennsylvania College Student Charge With Jogging While Drunk

As a State College criminal defense attorney, I have heard many fact patterns involving how students at Penn State, Lock Haven, and Juniata have been charged with Underage Drinking and Public Drunkenness. However, I recently read an article in which a DeSales University student was stopped by police after he was drunk jogging along a road and causing vehicles to take defensive maneuvers to avoid striking him. Many of my Penn State University Park clients have been unable to walk and have been almost struck by vehicles on College or Beaver Avenues, but I cannot recall a case in which they were jogging, unless  they were actually running away from the police.

The student was stopped by police, and after the police noticed that the student was unsteady on his feet and smelled like alcohol, a breath test was administered. According to the article, the breath test result was .19%. The student was charged with a summary offense of Public Drunkenness.

Breath Tests and Public Drunkenness

Many people mistakenly believe that the police must have breath test results or have administered field sobriety tests in order to file summary charges of Underage Drinking and Public Drunkenness. People often confuse the requirements of a Pennsylvania DUI charge with Underage Drinking. In order to charge someone under the age of 21 with drunk driving, the police must have evidence that the person’s blood alcohol level is .02% or higher. With Underage Drinking, there is no legal level that must be proven. The same is true with regard to Public Drunkenness. There is no specific level of intoxication that must be proven to support either charge. Also, I often argue that the case law in Pennsylvania supports an argument that breath test results are not admissible in summary cases like Underage Drinking and Public Drunkenness, and the State College judges have agreed and refused to admit such test results in evidence.

The majority of Underage Drinking and Public Drunkenness charges are proven via circumstantial evidence. With Underage Drinking, there is no requirement that the person is actually drunk. Evidence must simply be that a person under the age of 21 has consumed alcohol. In order to support a charge of Public Drunkenness, the police must present evidence that the person was drunk to the extent that he or she caused a public inconvenience or posed a danger to him or herself. A person can be charged with Public Drunkenness based upon being intoxicated or impaired by alcohol or drugs. Circumstantial evidence in these types of cases includes the odor of alcohol, difficulty standing, slurred speech, and bloodshot eyes. In many of these cases, the person also admits to having consumed alcohol and even tells the officer how much alcohol was consumed.

Summary Convictions Can Appear on Background Searches

Many college students want to know whether summary charges like Underage Drinking and Criminal Mischief will appear on a criminal background search. In the past, the answer was no. Most background searches were limited to reviews of the Pennsylvania State Police records, and most summary offenses are not reported to the state police. However, now many background search companies are using the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts (AOPC) database instead of the state police repository, so summary charges do often appear on background searches now. An experienced defense attorney may be able to fight and win a charge or convince the officer to agree to a resolution that would lead to the dismissal of the charge. If the charge is dismissed, an expungement petition can be filed to seek the destruction of the government record in the case. If the matter is expunged, then a search of the government record would not disclose the charge. Because summary offenses are appearing on background searches, avoiding summary convictions has become even more important for college students that are just about to start a professional career.