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.
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
On its face, it would appear that serving beer inside Beaver Stadium during Penn State football games would be throwing gasoline onto a fire. How could granting access to even more alcohol than the countless gallons of booze already guzzled in the Beaver Stadium parking lots possibly reduce the number of public drunkenness and disorderly conduct charges? As it turns out, serving beer in stadiums may be the classic example of the counter-intuitive approach being the best approach.
In a previous blog, I explained how to avoid being noticed by the police and getting charged with underage drinking or public drunkenness in the first place. In this blog, I am going to explain what steps you can take if you have contact with the police related to an underage drinking or public drunkenness investigation. I am not encouraging you to drink underage, but I am going to enlighten you as to your rights under the Pennsylvania and United States Constitutions.