I have been a criminal defense lawyer in State College, Pennsylvania long enough to have noticed certain patterns in the Centre County criminal justice system. One such pattern is that a Penn State student is far more likely to be charged with DUI during his or her senior year than at any other time. The downside is that this is the worst possible time in a student's academic career to be charged with a crime, because it coincides with job searches and grad school applications.
Probably the biggest factor contributing to a high DUI rate among seniors is that they tend to have greater access to a vehicle. At Penn State, freshman are not allowed to have cars, and older students are far more likely to have cars than the younger students. Although State College and University Park see more than a few bike DUIS each year, the overwhelming majority of DUI defendants are accused of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol and/ or other drugs.
Another key factor is location. All freshman live in the dorms, as do quite a few sophomores. Very few Penn State seniors, on the other hand, still live in the dorms. Many State College student apartments are a good distance from campus and downtown. I have represented only a small handful of students in DUI cases who live downtown, while most of my Penn State student DUI clients live in places like the Pointe, Nittany Crossing, Copper Beech, Briarwood, and Lions Gate. Students who live in these apartments still want to get their drink on, and most bars and parties are too far away to walk from these apartment complexes, which leads me to my next point.
State College has an inadequate number of taxi cabs on weekends during the school year. In the summer, the cab drivers sit around bored, while on a typical fall or spring Saturday night, it is nearly impossible to get a cab. I have had more than a few DUI clients over the years who drove downtown with the intention of getting a cab home, only to give up in frustration after waiting and waiting. If a cab would have been available, these students never would have tried to drive home after a night of drinking.
Nearly all seniors are 21 or older, granting them access to the bars, and nearly all student bars are on College and Beaver Avenues. It is no secret that "senioritis" takes a hold of a certain percentage of the senior class at the same time these young people finally gave access to bars. I have had many DUI clients who were out drinking on week nights, especially during the spring of their senior years. There are few parties on weeknights, but the bars are always open. Some of these students drive, because they only planned to have one or two drinks, but as they start having fun, the drinks start to snowball until they are over the legal limit of .08.
If you have been charged with a DUI, it is important that you contact an experienced, local criminal defense attorney right away. Being charged with DUI is a serious matter. It is a life-altering event, but it should not be a life-ending event. Under certain circumstances, you may even be able to ultimately escape without a damaging criminal record.
Matt McClenahen is a criminal defense attorney in State College, Pennsylvania and Penn State alumnus. If you are charged with DUI or any other crime, feel free to call McClenahen Law Firm 814.308.0870 for a free, initial consultation. http://www.mattmlaw.com/Criminal-Defense-Overview/DUI-Defense.shtml