Misdemeanor and summary offense charges have been filed against a Nashville Predators fan who had the audacity to throw a dead catfish onto the sacred ice of PPG Paints Arena during Game 1 of the 2017 Stanley Cup Finals last night. Jacob Waddell of Nolenville, TN, who was lucky enough to procure a ticket which should have gone to a more-deserving Penguins fan, erroneously believed that throwing a dead catfish onto the ice would be as legally permissible in Pittsburgh as it is at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville. Neither Pens fans nor the Pittsburgh Police were amused by this rude gesture, and not only was Wadell ejected from the game, he now also finds himself charged with possessing instruments of crime, disrupting meetings and disorderly conduct.
Eastern Michigan athletic director Heather Lyke announced this week that EMU will join the growing number of college football stadiums offering beer sales. This announcement comes on the heels of EMU's 48-29 road win against Wyoming, the Eagle's first non-conference road win in 27 years! With such a record of futility, the undisputedly worst of the five FBS college football teams in Michigan had to do something to encourage attendance and generate revenue.
And not only is EMU serving beer from 90 minutes before kick-off through the third quarter; it is selling good beer! Craft beer from nearby Arbor Brewing Company will sell for $7 a pint. None of that disgusting Reinheitsgebot-violating liquid sold at NFL stadiums under the moniker "Bud Lite" will be served at Rynearson Stadium. Unlike at NFL stadiums, the beer will only be sold in a sealed-off patio area, and entry into this area will be restricted to people 21 and over. This week's home game against Ball State will serve as a test run, and if all goes well, we should expect continued sales in the future.
It should be noted that beer sales at college stadiums is not just about money. Strangely enough, alcohol-related offenses like disorderly conduct, public drunkenness and assaults have actually been reduced at schools with in-stadium alcohol sales. If people know they can buy beer in the stadium, they are less likely to shotgun beers or do shots right before entering the stadium. But once inside the stadium, the high prices discourage over-consumption. Thus, alcohol sales in the stadium appear to encourage responsible drinking. It is win, win. The school gets more money and the well-behaved fans have less annoying or dangerous drunks to deal with. This is what economists call a "positive externality."
Most readers of this blog are either Penn Staters or live in and around Happy Valley, so you may be wondering whether Beaver Stadium will jump on the beer wagon. My guess is not any time soon, even with recent alcohol sales at the BJC. BJC alcohol sales have been at select events with far more appeal to older adults than college students. Also, Penn State has made a concerted effort to discourage student drug and alcohol consumption ever since the late 1990s. The university even provides fun, sober, weekend activities for students in far greater number than it did when I was a student all the way back in the Twentieth Century. Therefore, I do not think Penn State would want to do anything, which would look hypocritical.
Public Urination has gotten so bad in San Francisco that the city is now coating walls in a special type of paint, which sprays urine back onto the perpetrator. How bad is bad? How about so bad that a three-story-tall light post collapsed because it was corroded by years of human and canine urine. This must rank up there with the Cuyahoga River catching on fire in terms of pollution-caused absurdities!
Pennsylvania law carries harsh penalties for underage drinking, despite the fact that the vast majority of people in every American generation have had at least one drink before reaching the age of 21. Although all states now have a drinking age of 21, the penalties and degree of law enforcement priority vary widely. Many young people and their parents are oblivious to just how harsh Pennsylvania's underage drinking laws are until they themselves are faced with an underage drinking citation.
Few people are aware that underage drinking in Pennsylvania carries a possible jail sentence of up to 90 days. Yes, you read that correctly. A judge could send you to jail for up to 90 days for drinking a beer if you are under 21. Rarely do judges impose such a sentence, unless there are severe aggravating circumstances and/ or the defendant has been in trouble many times before. Also, most people who receive jail time in an underage drinking case are usually also charged with felonies or misdemeanors or with additional summary offenses, such as disorderly conduct, criminal mischief or public drunkenness.
Most young people charged with underage drinking are not looking at jail time, but they are all looking at a possible driver's license suspension, even if the incident had absolutely nothing to do with driving. A first conviction carries a 90 day driver's license suspension, a second conviction carries a one year suspension, and a third or subsequent conviction carries a two year suspension. These suspensions are always served consecutively.
If you are caught driving under suspension following an underage drinking conviction, PennDoT additional one year suspension, and if you becomes a "habitual offender" by repeatedly driving under suspension, then a magisterial district judge could impose a jail sentence. People have to drive to get to work, so they often drive with suspended licenses. Thus, there are people in their thirties who still do not have a driver's license because they were caught drinking underage, and then continued to drive. Likewise, there are people who end up serving jail time well into adulthood, due to underage drinking convictions several decades ago, which set the stage for subsequent driving under suspension convictions. This is the inevitable outcome in a state with large rural expanses with no public transportation, coupled with the fact that cops in rural areas are far more likely to aggressively pursue underage drinkers than are cops in cities with real crimes to deal with.
Most young people are more worried about a driver's license suspension than fines, but the fines are not exactly trivial. Recently, the maximum fine for a first offense underage drinking conviction was raised to $500, while the maximum fine for a second or subsequent conviction is $1,000. To add insult to injury, additional court costs must be added to the fines.
If you are charged with underage drinking in Pennsylvania, it is not all doom and gloom. You may have defenses you could raise at trial, which you might not even be aware of until you talk to a criminal defense lawyer. Also, you may be eligible for a first time offender's program, which will allow you to have the charge dismissed. The magisterial district courts in each county handle underage drinking charges differently, so it is important to speak to a criminal defense lawyer from the county in which you were charged.
Matt McClenahen is a criminal defense lawyer in State College, Pennsylvania, home of Penn State University. http://www.mattmlaw.com/Criminal-Defense-Overview/Underage-Drinking.shtml
I am a hardcore Penn State football fan, and it appears that only we ultras seem to care enough about position battles, player evaluations and the new coaching staff's schemes to venture into Beaver Stadium to actually watch the game. For the casual fans and those not even into football, the Blue and White Game has become a major springtime holiday in Central Pennsylvania. It celebrates the return of warm weather by "tailgating," which can mean anything from elaborate outdoor feasts to standing in the parking lot drinking cheap beer.
Even though there is no chance that Penn State can lose, not everyone will leave the Beaver Stadium parking lots happy. The nicer the weather, the greater the number of alcohol-related summary offense citations like underage drinking, public drunkenness, disorderly conduct and criminal mischief, not to mention far more serious misdemeanor charges like DUI, simple assault and resisting arrest. Wherever there is a large concentration of people drinking, there will be a certain percentage of people who fail to drink responsibly.
But not everyone charged with an alcohol-related offense was necessarily out of control or obnoxious. For Penn State, State College and Pennsylvania State Police, handing out underage drinking citations around Beaver Stadium is like shooting fish in a barrel, and a lot of these young people do not even get a chance to finish their first drink before being hassled by the Man. If you look young, and are holding a beer or even a red plastic cup, the police are going to check your ID. Obviously, there are so many underage drinkers at a Penn State game that only a tiny fraction of young people will be cited, but small percentage of a very large number is still a lot of people.
I understand that the lure of partying is far stronger for most people than an inter-squad scrimmage game with interest only to football nerds like me, but if you are not going into the game, you really should not drink around Beaver Stadium if you are under 21. Normally, when people commit a crime, they at least try not to get caught. Drinking in a public place in broad daylight in an area patrolled by hundreds of cops simply invites trouble.
If you are charged with underage drinking or any other alcohol-related offense, it is important to talk to a local criminal defense lawyer, who knows the cops, judges and the local rules of criminal procedure. Even if you are factually guilty, an attorney can often find ways to mitigate your damages, such as assuring that you escape without a criminal conviction on your record.
Matt McClenahen is a Penn State alumnus and State College criminal defense lawyer, whose office is a five minute walk from campus. http://www.mattmlaw.com/Criminal-Defense-Overview/Alcohol-Offenses-DUI.shtml
Amid great controversy, State College bars were paid by the borough and Penn State to close on State Patty's Day for the second year in a row, harming the local economy in order to take the moral high ground. Of course, State Patty's Day always falls on a Saturday, which is the most socially appropriate day of the week to drink, and that is why it the biggest bar day of the week, even outside of college football season. By contrast, St. Patrick's Day can fall on any day of the week, and this year it falls on Monday, which is probably the least socially appropriate day to drink, being the start of a work week and all.
While State Patty's Day mayhem is but a mere shell of its former self, it appears the tradition of IU Patty's Day is just gaining traction. Although the IUP student-created holiday has been around since 2012, it did not attract much notoriety until this past weekend, when things got out of hand. Videos show drunken young people blocking traffic, walking around with open containers of alcohol, jumping on cars, fighting, throwing objects and screaming and yelling.
State Patty's Day is one of Penn State's newest traditions, and also by far the most controversial. Few people were ever truly offended by the time-honored and comical Mifflin Streak, but many State College residents have expressed annoyance over the unabashed bacchanalian festival created in 2007, when Old Main deliberately scheduled spring break when students would not be in town for St. Patrick's Day. Penn State's plan backfired when the students created the alternative holiday known as "State Patty's Day," which turned out to involve far more irresponsible drinking than the original Irish drinking holiday ever did in State College.
A 41 year old Pennsylvania man was take into custody today, alleged to be the man variously described as "The Swiss Cheese Pervert" and "Swiss Cheese Masturbator." Christopher Pagano is accused of having a rather strange paraphilia. He allegedly would drive around with either no pants or his pants pulled down, with a piece of Swiss cheese in his hands. That would be strange enough, but Pagano then has allegedly proceeded to offer female pedestrians money to masturbate him with the Swiss cheese.
Recently, Centre County, Pennsylvania defense attorneys received notice that the filing fees for expungements will increase from $15 to $75 effective January 2, 2014. The filing fee had remained at $15 for many years, even though it was costing the Clerk of Courts Office a lot more than $15 to handle the voluminous, bureaucratic paperwork and procedures associated with each expungement filing. With the increased fee, I suspect that the Centre County Clerk of Courts will go from losing money on expungements to making a small profit, which will offset losses in other areas.