Getting Caught …

Todd Vanderwerff

Todd Vanderwerff

Imagine for a moment that you’re out with your friends at a house party and the police get wind of it. Imagine for a moment that you’re drinking. And you’re not 21 yet.

Do you know what happens next?

If not, the Brookings police force would like you to know.

The simple truth is that more of you are getting minors this year than last year.

In 2000, Brookings police officers made a total of 356 arrests for underage consumption. In 2001, that number dipped down to 220. But last year, that number shot back up to 346. Already this year, officers have made just over a quarter of the arrests they made last year with 93. This may have to do with the huge surge in freshman population, but the numbers are a bit discouraging either way.

Despite this, sergeant Lee Lunt says he sees many responsible drinkers in Brookings, especially amongst those who frequent the downtown bars.

“The people that go downtown and drink, they leave their cars downtown and get a parking ticket, but they have someone come get them. Kudos to them,” Lunt said.

Lunt said that these students often know they’re going to get a parking ticket, but they also know they’re too drunk to drive.

“It’s great to stop a car and see a sober driver and four passengers who are all wiped out,” Lunt said.

But, barring fake IDs, the students drinking downtown are those who are at or over the legal age of 21.

Those who are under 21 are not going to be so lucky.

On the first offense, underage drinkers are given a $50 fine (plus court costs, which total $26.50). This generally is the only punishment meted out by Brookings county on the first underage offense.

It’s the second offense that gets people.

After the second offense, the arrestee will likely pay $100 plus court costs. In addition, they will probably have to serve a ten day jail sentence, though eight of those days will likely be suspended.

Therefore, an underage drinker would be able to serve two days (usually over a weekend) in the Brookings county jail, but have the other eight days hanging over his or her head in the event of a third arrest.

On the second offense, a drivers license may be revoked as well. Generally, this will happen on the third offense, but it may happen on the second.

If someone is caught driving drunk, however, the license is taken away automatically for thirty days. On the second offense worthy of license removal, the license is suspended for a year.

Every time someone with a suspended drivers license is pulled over, a year will be added to the length of suspension.

“I know people that have it revoked for years,” Lunt said.

The largest possible punishment for underage drinking as determined by the state is a $200 fine and a possible 30 days in jail.

Those who are over 21 can still be caught in the web of underage drinking, however.

If someone over 21 provides alcohol to someone under 18, he or she is guilty of a class one misdemeanor, which carries a maximum punishment of a $1000 fine and a possible year in jail.

Those over 21 who purchase alcohol for people between the ages of 18 and 21 face a lesser punishment, as buying alcohol for that age group is a class two misdemeanor, which carries the same maximum punishment as underage drinking.

If someone over 21 is at a house party and underage drinking is going on, they cannot be held responsible for it. If they own the house where the alcohol is being served, they can be held liable for a common nuisance. A common nuisance is when someone provides a way for underage people to get alcohol. It is also a class two misdemeanor.

“Usually in something like that it’s the people of the house who not only are providing what we call a common nuisance, but they’re usually the one’s doing the actual furnishing (of alcohol),” Lunt said.