As the semester (or quarter) winds down, most students head home. You've been studying hard for several months (at least that's what you're going to tell your parents) and it's time to have some fun. You get to see people you haven't seen in awhile, and get together with your high school friends. This is also the time for parties, and there's probably no shortage of places for you to go. Unfortunately, for far too many kids the Christmas holiday turns into a disaster. Either they get a ticket for something, or worse, get arrested and taken to jail. In an effort to keep you out of trouble, here are some tips for you. 

It's still against the law to drink until you're 21

Most parties involve alcohol, especially if you have friends who have already turned 21. Even though it may be unfair, it's still an offense to drink if you're under 21, which can lead to a ticket. Don't think that just because the police don't see you with alcohol you can't get a citation. There are two separate offenses to be aware of: Minor possession is one offense and a minor consuming alcohol is another, only requiring proof that you had somehing to drink. This means you need to watch out who you hang around. If you are with a group where someone is "acting the fool" and police come to check on things, you might end up with a ticket even if you weren't part of the disturbance that brought them there.

Tip #1 - don't drink anything

Tip #2 - stay away from groups of people who are drinking

You can be arrested for walking while drunk

There is an offense called public intoxication which covers a lot of things. The basic requirement is that the police believe you are a danger to yourself or others. I have seen cases where kids have been seen walking around, and they get tickets. Why you might ask? The main reason is that they are worried you might walk out into the street and get run over, or pass out and injure yourself. Just because you don't drive while you're intoxicated doesn't mean you can't arrested. And despite what most people think, this is an entirely subjective decision. There isn't a certain standard like there is for DWI cases, and they don't have to give you a breath test. The bad thing about this offense is that even though it's only a "ticketable" offense, you are probably going to be taken to jail, where you will stay until you sober up.

Tip #3 - get someone to take you home (that means someone who is sober!)

You cannot drink and drive - period

Driving while intoxicated is the offense where you have had enough to drink to become legally intoxicated. There is another offense called Driving under the Influence, or DUI. You can commit the offense even you aren't legally intoxicated. If you are under 21 and get behind the wheel, you can be arrested for DUI. You commit the offense when you drive after having ANYTHING to drink. Despite what most people think, they don't have to administer any tests, or make you take a breath test. Smelling it on your breath can be enough, as can you admitting you had something to drink. Remember, you aren't supposed to be drinking anyway.

Tip #4 - Don't drink and drive

Don't get sticky fingers

Christmas is the season for giving, so it's natural to want to be in the holiday mood. For some reason I've never understood, college kids will try to shoplift even when they have money. I can't tell you  how many cases I've had where someone has been arrested, and they had the money to pay for what they stole. Maybe it's the thrill of trying to get away with something. If that's it, find your excitement elsewhere. And whatever you, don't go in and simply pay the ticket. A theft conviction has consequences that will follow you the rest of your life - even if it's a minor theft.

Tip #5 - Don't steal

Whatever you do - Don't try to deal with it yourself

If you don't take my advice and get a ticket, for heavens sake, don't try to deal with it yourself. Yes, your parents will be mad, but they won't be nearly as mad as they will be if they find out later what happens - and believe me they will be. More importantly, you can make decisions that could impact you later. Some offenses carry license suspensions, and will be considered convictions that remain on your record. That can often be avoided, but not if you simply go in and pay the ticket so your parents won't find out. We have handled hundreds of these cases. At least give us a call and we can tell you your options.

Happy holidays!!

Walter Reaves
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Criminal Defense Attorney Walter Reaves has been practicing law for over 35 years.
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