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Alcohol Violations on College Campuses

By February 17, 2020September 25th, 2023No Comments

Of all the misconduct you can be accused of on a college campus, infractions involving alcohol are among the most serious. Why? Because college students can face punishment through both the criminal justice system and discipline on campus – a double whammy for students trying to finish school with a degree and a clean record. 

What are the most common alcohol violations at colleges and universities? 

  • Underage drinking: This is the most common alcohol violation that happens at colleges and universities. The federal minimum age to consume alcohol is 21, and most college students start their studies before they’re legally allowed to drink. But roughly 60 percent of college students between 18 and 22 years old reported drinking in the past month, and two-thirds of those surveyed had engaged in some level of binge drinking – or four to five drinks or more in a two-hour time span. 
  • Public intoxication: Being visibly drunk in public is typically against the law in any town, and it’s also a big no-no at your college or university. 
  • Open container: This is being caught with an open alcohol container in a place where drinking is not allowed, such as a public street or college quadrangle. 
  • Supplying alcohol to minors: If you are 21 and legally allowed to drink, but you buy alcohol for people under 21 to consume, you could be arrested for contributing to the delinquency of a juvenile. 
  • Having alcohol in your dorm: If you bring alcohol into an alcohol-free zone (like your dorm or a college football stadium depending on which school you attend), you could get in big trouble. 


What are the possible punishments for alcohol infractions? 

Alcohol-related crimes are misdemeanors and punishable by fines and jail time of less than a year. While underage drinking is a civil rather than criminal offense, violations should be taken just as seriously. Punishments could include community service, alcohol education classes, and suspension of your driver’s license for 90 days.

If you’re convicted of an alcohol offense in the criminal system, then you’re more likely to be found guilty of violating your college’s code of conduct. If this happens, you could: 

  • Lose campus housing
  • Be put on probation
  • Be suspended
  • Be expelled. 


A first offense is not likely to end with one of the above punishments, but it’s still a serious matter. If you end up with a second or third alcohol infraction, your punishment will be more severe, and you’re likely to lose some academic rights. 

That’s why it’s so important to hire an attorney who specializes in college student defense. Shanlon Wu, a former federal prosecutor, is uniquely qualified to handle college student discipline cases and criminal charges. Contact his office today for a consultation. 

These materials have been prepared by Cohen Seglias for informational purposes only and are not intended and should not be construed as legal advice.

Shan Wu

Author Shan Wu

Shan’s professional and personal background gives him a unique understanding of academic institutions and the criminal justice system. A former federal prosecutor in Washington, D.C., he is at home in D.C. Courts and very familiar with all of the Washington, D.C. law enforcement agencies, especially the Metropolitan Police Department. His parents were university professors so he grew up in a university environment. He understands the mindset of academic institutions. As a prosecutor, he supervised in the misdemeanor crime section. This is the section of the Washington, D.C. prosecutor’s office that handles most college student cases. His understanding of charging decisions and how judges view these cases is invaluable to his student clients and their families. Shan served as a federal prosecutor in the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia for over ten years. During his tenure there, now Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr. appointed him to supervisory positions in the Misdemeanor Trial Section and also in a police corruption task force. His outstanding legal work in the government was recognized through numerous Special Achievement Awards from the Justice Department as well as awards conveyed by law enforcement agencies and community groups. From 1999-2000, Shan served as Counsel to Attorney General Janet Reno, advising her on criminal and civil investigations, E-Gov, E-Commerce (electronic signatures, internet gambling, internet telephony, privacy & public access issues in electronic court filings), congressional oversight, and legislative review. His responsibilities included serving as liaison to the FBI, DEA, Criminal Division, Executive Office of United States Attorneys, National Institute of Justice, and White House Counsel’s Office. Shan serves on the D.C. Bar Association’s Hearing Committee of the Board on Professional Responsibility and is a past president of the Asian Pacific American Bar Association for the Greater Washington, D.C. area. He is a 1988 graduate of Georgetown University Law Center, where he graduated Order of the Barristers, edited two law reviews, and was Co-Director of the Moot Court Program. He holds a B.A. in English Literature from Vassar College as well as a Master’s Degree in Creative Writing from Sarah Lawrence College. Following law school, he clerked for the late Hon. Jerry Buchmeyer, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, and the late Eugene Wright, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. He is admitted to practice law in the District of Columbia and Connecticut.

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