Unruly Michigan Fan Resists Police, Gets Pepper Sprayed at Penn State Homecoming Game


A story of an unruly Michigan fan at the Penn State-Michigan Homecoming Game has made some national news after police officers from State College and Penn State pepper sprayed and arrested the man. According to reports, the man was causing problems within Beaver Stadium and was asked by stadium personnel to  leave. After the man refused to leave, the police responded, but the man ignored their requests to exit as well. At that point, the police were left with the last resort option of forcefully removing the man. Part of that force included the use of pepper spray.

Ultimately, the man was charged with at least one non-traffic summary offense. I do not know the precise non-traffic offense, but I would expect that he may have been charged with Disorderly Conduct or Trespass. If convicted, the man faces a maximum sentence of 90 days incarceration and a $300.00 fine. Normally, a person convicted of a summary offense is not sentence to spend time in jail. However, the judge does have that authority. In this case, it is my understanding that the State College judge has issued a letter informing the man that he may be sentenced to a period of jail time if convicted. When a Centre County district judge issues such a letter, the person now becomes eligible to request the assistance of a public defender.

Pennsylvania Right to Free Attorney

Many parents of Penn State Altoona and University Park students mistakenly believe that they can get a public defender from Bellefonte to provide representation in routine State College Underage Drinking and Public Drunkenness cases. They cite to the constitution and believe that a lawyer must always be provided to a person if they are unable to afford one. This is simply an example of the constitution being interpreted by courts to mean something other than what it expressly says. A public defender is normally only available for misdemeanor and felony cases or summary cases in which there is a likelihood of going to jail.

Parents and students also mistakenly believe that the police must have evidence of breath or blood test results or administer sobriety tests in order to file Underage Drinking citations. Such tests are routinely used in Pennsylvania DUI cases, but they are not required in Underage Drinking or Public Drunkenness cases. To the contrary, Pennsylvania courts have stated that preliminary breath test (PBT) results are not admissible in non-traffic summary offense cases. Police still administer PBTs, and many people plead guilty in such cases because they did not talk to an experienced State College defense attorney and assumed that they would readily be convicted. A person charged with a criminal offense should always talk with a lawyer and should not attempt to represent themselves.