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Posts tagged "Penn State"

Why Penn State Should Encourage Beer Drinking!

The Penn State alcohol policy has been an abject failure. Irresponsible and excessive alcohol consumption appear to be at an all-time high in Happy Valley, yet attempts to curtail drinking have only made things worse. So how did we get to a place where Mount Nittany Medical Center can expect alcohol overdoses every weekend and underage drinking an public drunkenness charges clog the local magisterial district courts? The sad reality is that Penn State's alcohol policies have had the unintended consequence of encouraging students to drink hard liquor instead of beer. we.want.beer.jpg

State College Marijuana Decriminalization is Misunderstood

"Marijuana is decriminalized in State College! It is now the equivalent of a parking ticket!" Thanks to some irresponsible and inaccurate media reports coupled with a misunderstanding of criminal law, this is the misinformed belief a lot of Penn State students and Centre County residents now have. Given all the confusion generated by this ordinance, it is incumbent upon criminal defense lawyers like me to set the record straight. The bottom line is that the decriminalization ordinance is essentially symbolic, and will have little if any effect on the Penn State community. stoner-girls-smoking-weed-gallery-2-50.jpg

State College Marijuana Decriminalization is Misunderstood

"Marijuana is decriminalized in State College! It is now the equivalent of a parking ticket!" Thanks to some irresponsible and inaccurate media reports coupled with a misunderstanding of criminal law, this is the misinformed belief a lot of Penn State students and Centre County residents now have. Given all the confusion generated by this ordinance, it is incumbent upon criminal defense lawyers like me to set the record straight. The bottom line is that the decriminalization ordinance is essentially symbolic, and will have little if any effect on the Penn State community. stoner-girls-smoking-weed-gallery-2-50.jpg

Should Penn State Follow OSU's lead with Stadium Beer Sales?

Penn State has long resisted alcohol sales at Beaver Stadium, but as universities search for new revenue streams, the trend is moving towards college-stadium beers sales, just as pro-stadiums have done for as long as anyone can remember. In May of this year, Penn State announced that it would allow beer and wine sales in the hoity-toity suites and club seats, while the masses would have to get their drink on the old fashioned way in the Beaver Stadium parking lots. In 2015, Ohio State took the exact same segregated alcohol sales approach, but in 2016, all of Buckeye Nation will be able to drink beer in the stadium, not just the well-heeled in club seats. penn-state-blue-white-game-tailgating-b70ae620a2659d08.jpgThis begs the obvious question as to whether Beaver Stadium will allow stadium-wide beer sales after the 2016 season. It should be noted that the revenue generated by Ohio Stadium beer sales has been ear-marked to fund two full-time positions with Ohio State University Police. College sports in now a multi-million dollar business, and it is becoming increasingly hard to justify "leaving money on the table." Perhaps Penn State will likewise be tempted to use beer sales to fund police services or offset other university expenses. Penn.State.tailgating.jpg

Is Marijuana Decriminalization Coming to State College?

Marijuana decriminalization will soon be the subject of a public hearing before the State College Borough Council. This hearing could come as soon as May 2, 2016. Although a local government has absolutely no authority to override state or federal criminal laws, it can create borough ordinances subjecting violators to fines and court costs, but not jail time. Thus, if the Borough Council creates an ordinance subjecting a person who possesses a small amount of marijuana to a fine, then the State College Police would have the option of issuing a borough ordinance citation rather than charging a suspect with a misdemeanor under the Pennsylvania Drug Device and Cosmetic Act. The proposed ordinance would cover up to 30 grams of marijuana or up to eight grams of hashish, and subject violators to a $250 fine for possession or a $350 fine for violators smoking in public. students.smoking.weed.jpg
So the natural question is whether such an ordinance will have any impact on Penn State students and others in the local cannabis community. I think it is too early to tell. State College Police have already made possession of marijuana for personal use the lowest law enforcement priority. Charges for possession of drug paraphernalia and small amount of marijuana in the borough are very rare, especially when one considers the ubiquity of cannabis consumption these days. There were only 29 small amount of marijuana charges filed in State College Borough in 2015, and based upon my experience, I suspect most of these were "collateral damage" cases. Collateral damage is a term used by both law enforcement and defense attorneys to describe a situation where the police get a search warrant following a controlled-drug buy, and then the police find drugs in the possession of roommates who had nothing to do with the drug sale to a confidential informant.
Personal use marijuana cases in State College Borough are so rare that I remember most of cases I have had in this category. By contrast, the Penn State Police aggressively enforce the marijuana prohibition laws, even going so far as wake up judges in the middle of the night to obtain search warrants for dorm rooms in response to the smell of marijuana. I have had so many personal use marijuana cases on the Penn State campus that I lost track years ago.
It will be interesting to see whether the State College Police actually enforce the marijuana laws more if they have the option of handing out a citation rather going through the more time-consuming process of filing misdemeanor charges. Perhaps they will, but I doubt that State College Police are going to seek a search warrant every time they smell burnt cannabis in a student apartment hallway. That would be a waste of valuable police resources. The State College Police are far too busy dealing with the mayhem wrought by drunk people.
Matt M. McClenahen is a Penn State alumnus, criminal defense attorney in State College, PA, and member of the NORML Legal Committee. http://www.mattmlaw.com/Criminal-Defense-Overview/Marijuana-Related-Offenses.shtml

What if State Patty's Day Were a Different Kind of Green

State Patty's Day made a resurgence in 2016, with a corresponding increase in alcohol-related arrests and overdoses over 2015. After the Penn State drinking holiday gradually decreased in magnitude over the past few years, restrictions were relaxed on bars, fraternities and apartment parties this year. Although arrests and police calls were up, 2016 paled in comparison to 2011, the year with the worst State Patty's Day behavior. Naturally, some responsible adults in State College and even some undergrad students are alarmed and outraged by the collateral damage caused by a massive army of drunkards. hash_bash.jpg

Do Fake IDs Work at Penn State Bars?

The quick answer is using fake IDs in State College is not a good idea. Occasionally fake IDs will work at a Penn State bar, but if you use a fake ID in this town enough times, you will eventually get caught. A common refrain I hear from clients is "I used this ID all semester with no problem until I got this one bouncer."  Others are not so lucky and are busted the first time they try to use a fake ID.

Pennsylvania Hate Crimes Law Explained


A lot of people have asked me about hate crimes laws ever since a Penn State student was recently charged with ethnic intimidation, terroristic threats, simple assault, stalking, disorderly conduct, public drunkenness and underage drinking following an incident in which the defendant allegedly verbally and physically assaulted a student of East Indian descent. Not surprsingly, the defendant was highly intoxciated. The felony ethnic intimidation charge was dismissed by a magisterial district judge, but was then refiled by the Centre County District Attorney's Office, with the hopes that a different judge will bind the charge over for trial. hatecrimetn.jpg

Alcohol Sales Come to Yet Another College Football Stadium

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. heather.lyke.JPG
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." Eastern Mihigan Football-4.jpg
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.

Is Jaywalking Legal in State College, Pennsylvania?

Jaywalking in downtown State College is an entrenched part of Penn State culture on par with the Grilled Sticky, Creamery ice cream and mocking the Willard Preacher, but is it legal? One could be forgiven for assuming that something everyone does must be legal, but jaywalking is not legal anywhere in Pennsylvania, including Happy Valley. This essentially means that even some of the most wholesome and harmless Penn State students flout the law every day. CollegeandAllen.State.College.JPG

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