Busted for booze: Students get caught on campus


Photo illustration by Coty Giannelli.

Rex Santus

Read about students getting caught drinking off campus here.

One Saturday night, eight Kent State students were drinking in a residence hall room until security guards knocked on the door, discovered alcohol and called the police.

Anne, whose name has been changed upon her request, was detained in Olson Hall, and was charged with underage drinking. The next month was a difficult process filled with court dates and community service.

“I thought I was going to cry,” Anne said. “I thought my parents were going to kill me. I thought we were going to get kicked out of school.”

If caught drinking underage or supplying alcohol to minors anywhere, students can face several consequences, said Carol Crimi, managing attorney at Kent State Student Legal Services.

“The potential punishment is a $1,000 fine or up to 180 days in jail or both,” Crimi said. “I think underage students don’t understand this is a first-degree misdemeanor. It’s on the same level as an (Operating Vehicle while under the Influence), an assault, petty theft, et cetera.”

Risks of on-campus drinking

If students are caught drinking on campus illegally, they will face even more consequences, said Brian Hellwig, coordinator of Residential Safety and Security.

“You’ll have to meet with your hall director, you could be cited by the police and you will be referred to the Office of Student Conduct,” Hellwig said.

Hellwig said the amount of illegal drinking in the residence halls has drastically decreased over the last few years.

“If you look at our stats about two and a half, three years ago, it was just out of control,” Hellwig said. “People were drinking to the excessive point that they were wandering around naked outside; they were being found covered in their own vomit.”

According to Hellwig’s records, the number of illegal drinking cases on campus has slightly increased since last year, but the number of cases has decreased by about 50 percent over the last five years.

Getting caught

Michquel Penn, community resource officer at the Kent State Police Department, said alcohol busts are still frequent, although the number of drinking arrests on campus has dramatically decreased.

Nick Tatoczenko, security supervisor for campus security, said students usually are caught by being noisy.

“Their actions will tell you if they’ve been drinking,” he said. “They will obviously try to hide things, and they will take longer to get to the door because they’re trying to hide things.”

Penn agreed it’s easy to decide if someone has been drinking.

“They will have those glassy, bloodshot eyes,” Penn said. “There’s definitely an odor; people don’t realize how bad it is. The smell is strong. We look for slurred speech.”

Students will be cited for illegally drinking in the residence halls and referred to the Office of Student Conduct regardless of whether the police are called, but if police are contacted, Penn said students will most likely also be charged.

If officers suspect students are drunk, they will administer Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus testing.

“We’ll use a pen or our finger and look for a horizontal gaze,” Penn said. “We’ll look for different cues in each of the eyes, and that would let us know, okay, there is definitely alcohol in them.”

Police will then administer charges based on the student’s particular involvement, such as who is in possession of the alcohol and who supplied the alcohol. Penn said once the students are charged, another arduous task waits for them — appearing in court.


The first appearance in court is called an arraignment, Crimi said. Defendants are called before the judge and asked to enter a plea of guilty, not guilty or no contest.

Most students plead guilty, Crimi said, and if they are first-time offenders, they will usually be granted leniency.

Defendants will be offered the opportunity to go into the diversion program. If the program’s requirements are completed, the judge will vacate the guilty plea and dismiss the case. Students can then expunge the charge from their record, Crimi said.

The program costs $125 to enter, and there is a $35 administrative fee to sign up for community work service, one of the program’s requirements. In addition to those costs, defendants will also have to pay $92 in court costs. They are granted a 30-day period to pay court costs, and 90 days to complete the community service.

“If they don’t successfully complete the program, the court will be notified … then they stand convicted of the offense, which is a first-degree misdemeanor,” Crimi said.

Crimi said a first-degree misdemeanor is the most serious misdemeanor charge. But even more serious is a student charged with furnishing alcohol to minors.

“The diversion program is not designed for people who are of age who furnish alcohol,” Crimi said. “Obviously, for a first-time offender, they’re not going to get the maximum penalties, but they could be looking at some jail time, and they could be looking at several hundreds of dollars of fine money.”

In addition to prosecution by the municipal court, Hellwig said students also have a hearing with the university’s judicial office.

“The maximum sanction is dismissal (from the university), but that’s rarely the case,” Hellwig said. “For the first offense, typically they’re going to follow what (the students) have been assigned by the courts.”

There’s a mandatory $30 appearance fee for judicial affairs, and students are most often placed on a probationary period.

If students repeat the same offense during each judicial office’s probationary periods, the penalties get more severe, Hellwig and Crimi said.

Student opinions

David, whose name has been changed upon his request, was charged with furnishing alcohol to minors when he lived on campus. He said the penalties were unexpectedly severe.

“I went to court, and they said if you plead no contest, it’s a mandatory three-day jail sentence,” David said. “I was like, ‘Oh, I was under the impression I was going to have to pay a fine.’”

David pleaded not guilty and through the help of Student Legal Services was able to reduce his punishment. The experience helped him learn to be more careful about drinking, but it did not make him completely change his ways.

“I regret getting caught, that’s about it,” David said. “I did it many more times than that one time. I wouldn’t usually furnish alcohol, but given the circumstances … Nobody was driving, nobody was going anywhere … I know my friends, and I know they aren’t crazy. I don’t regret buying them alcohol.”

Contact Rex Santus at [email protected].