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LegalKnowledge, Attorney
Category: Legal
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Experience:  10+ years handling Legal, Real Estate, Criminal Law, Family Law, Traffic matters.
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my daughter attends carnegie mellon university in pittsburgh.

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my daughter attends carnegie mellon university in pittsburgh. she used poor judgment in attending a party in a dorm room on campus. campus police arrived bec of loud music and forced their way in. i was told that students have rights on campus and police cannot force their way into a room without consent. the student made it clear that the officer did not have his consent but since he was not a resident of this dorm room the officer forced his way in and then handcuffed him. now there was alcohol in the room (not sure how much-beer cans, empty vodka bottle). my daughter did not drink but received a citation along with the other students who had drunk something (my daughter doesnt know whether they consumed it before or during her stay). the officer said that she will receive a letter asking her to appear in court. since she did not consume, buy, sell or transport any alcohol (yes, all the students are minors), and no breathologizer test was conducted, what sort of case does she have in order to avoid any penalty (potentially attending some class or participating in community service)? is there a law against a student who used poor judgment who happened to be in the presence of alcohol although they cannot prove she had consumed anything. she is a first time "offender'. thx
Hi! I will be the professional that will be helping you today. I look forward to providing you with information to help solve your problem.

Good afternoon. Would you mind sharing with me the statute under which she was charged?
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

i spoke w the officer and he said he gave everyone a citation (not a criminal offense but more like a parking ticket violation)

Thank you for the additional information. I do understand the situation and your concern for your daughter. Your daughter does need to decide prior to appearing in court, if she wants to contest/fight this or try and resolve it. The burden is on the State and they need to prove the charge against her beyond a reasonable doubt. If the officer never witnessed her consuming alcohol, it being in her possession or administered a breath test to show it was present in her system, it is possible that there may not be enough evidence to support the charge. The underage drinking statute prohibits a person under 21 years old from:

trying to purchase,
consuming (drinking),
or knowingly transporting:
any beverage that contains half of a percent (0.50%) of alcohol-by-volume (a/b/v).

If she did not want to fight this, she could inquire from the State about an adjudication alternative program. Under this type of arrangement, the defendant is not required to plead guilty, and the court may order one or more of the following alternative punishments:

Community service
Alcohol-education classes
Any other reasonable punishment the judge feels fit

Once complete, the charge would be dismissed. However, something for her to be aware of, is that her license could be suspended as a result of the charge, so she may want to see if the State would be willing to amend the charge, to a disorderly conduct charge, to avoid the suspension, as part of the deal.

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Customer: replied 4 years ago.

thank you for this. she definitely did not consume, buy, sell or transport any alcohol. she even spoke w one of the officers outside and she would have clearly known that she had not consumed anything. should she fight her case and if so, should she just defend her case w this one argument saying that there is no evidence to suggest that she had consumed, sold, bought or transported any alcohol? when i spoke w the officer he clearly stated that he could not prove this as it related to my daughter. if she loses her defense then what would be the consequences?

I do not think she should represent herself and should retain an attorney, if she wants to fight this. If she loses, she could be convicted, have to pay a fine and court costs, will have her license suspended and may have to take/perform the same tasks which are imposed by the program I mentioned above. The officer is not her friend, so while you may have spoken with him, it was at his discretion to charge her and if he could not prove anything, he should have let her go.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

so you think it would be best for her to show up to court and simply state that she used poor judgment in being in the room but that she did not consume, transport, buy or sell any alcohol. is it possible for the judge to drop the citation or to make her do community service or another alternative punishment?

While she may state that, it would be at trial, that it would need to be proven by the State, that she did consume it. Unless she wanted to take a plea and resolve this, she should not admit to anything. The Judge is not going to just drop the citation, which is why she needs to either 1) proceed to trial or 2) enter the program that is offered by the court, which would include community service or an alternative punishment. If she decides to enter the program, it will be dropped at the end.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

not sure what that means. so she will appear in court and the citation will be stated and you are suggesting that she says nothing? so wait to see if the state/court can prove that she consumed, etc. so should she proceed to trial? I thought showing up to court was the trial? how can they tell her to enter the program if they cannot prove that she consumed, etc any alcohol. it is only circumstantial evidence.


so if she proceeds w the trial, the judge will determine if there is conclusive evidence to charge her? if not then she could walk away without any form of punishment?

Let me clarify. When she appears, she will likely be asked if she wants to resolve this and take a plea deal / enter the program or enter a plea of not guilty and go to trial. Trial is the time that evidence will be presented, along with testimony, for the State to use, to prove the charge against her. Often times, a defendant enters the program when they have no defenses or just want to keep their record clean, without fear of going to trial and losing. If the State does not have enough evidence to prove the charge, then she may want to consider fighting this and going to trial. It is at the conclusion of the trial, that it will need to be determined if the charge was proved beyond a reasonable doubt. If it was not, then a finding of not guilty will be entered and she would walk away, without any form of punishment. If found guilty, then a sentence would be imposed.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

they definitely do not have any evidence to charge my daughter but i want to do what is wise and not fight the system if the system assumes that all "privileged" college students are drinking even if there is no conclusive evidence. my daughter is not one of those kids-she has never drunk any alcohol in her life.


do you think it would be wisest for her to enter a plea deal w the request to change the charge to disorderly conduct and enter a program suggested?


what troubles me about this approach is that it is not just because she is not guilty. what do you think?

I think if she is not guilty then she should go to trial. She should not plea to something she did not do. However, there is no way of knowing the outcome at trial so if she wants to assure that the charge is dismissed she may need to consider the program. At the end of the day the decision is solely up to her since if found guilty she will have to satisfy the sentence imposed
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