University of Arizona Students and Common Alcohol Crimes: 2023 update
In Arizona, if you are under 21 you basically can’t legally drink. Any amount of alcohol in your system with few exceptions, nearly always no matter where you are and what you are doing, is illegal. In other words, if you are under 21, and have a sip of beer, it is presumptively an Arizona crime. ARS § 4-244.41, I know that sounds crazy but it’s true. And the local police do charge these cases.
Plus, if you are living in the dorms or walking around the University of Arizona campus late at night, unfortunately you are at special risk. And if you are driving or sitting behind the wheel of an automobile after consuming any amount of alcohol in Arizona, if you are under-age, you are at even more risk.
Today we discuss the way University of Arizona Students often get charged with common underage alcohol crimes—two different crimes are what we are going to focus on here: ARS §4-244.41(underage consumption) & ARS §4-244.34 (underage consumption while driving) .
Minor in Possession (consumption): ARS §4-244.31
On a campus with nearly forty-thousand students, and a huge drinking and partying culture, the crime of “ minor in possession of alcohol “—abbreviated by the police as “MIP” is a crime investigated or charged multiple times every single night on or near the University of Arizona Camps. “Possession” means having any level of alcohol in your body.
Walking around on Campus
We see a lot of cases where the University Arizona Police stop younger students simply walking on or near campus late at night, often, in our view, with thin or dubious legal cause. Police will approach the student, demand identification, and then variably ask them if they’ve been drinking. Police will often ask the student to take a breath test. Even where the student doesn’t admit to drinking, and refuses a breath test, police may try to establish the crime with purported “observations”—claiming things like they “smell” alcohol on the person’s breath, the person had “slurred” speech, the person was “unsteady on their feet.”
Second, we see a huge number of cases, unfortunately, where a resident assistant (RA) in the dorms calls the University Police (claiming “noise” most commonly), if they think there is something nefarious going on in your dorm room. Although in theory you have some rights to privacy in your own dorm room, because after all it is your “home,” in reality at least in our experience, University Police surprisingly often gain entry into our client dorm rooms and recover large amounts of alcohol, and confront drinking students. They press the dorm room occupants for confessions, and extract consent to search the room.
Pursuant to Arizona Revised Statutes §4-244.41 it is illegal “[f]or a person who is under twenty-one years of ae to have in a person’s body any spirituous liquor.” It is a defense, however, if the there is proof that it was part of a religious exercise or for a medical purpose. See ARS §4-244.41(a)-(b).
In addition to criminal charges, and even if there are no charges or prosecution is deferred, if the arresting agency is University of Arizona Police Department, or the matter has happened on campus, there will almost always be a separate administrative disciplinary referral to the University of Arizona Dean of Student’s Office.
Expected And Common Resolution for First Offenses: Diversion
Fortunately, most first-offense Minor In Possession cases in and around the University of Arizona don’t wind up as criminal convictions or result in suspensions or academic probation Both the prosecutor and the Dean of Students adjudicators are understanding and give Students a robust opportunity to earn a dismissal or otherwise redeem themselves through something called “diversion”
“Diversion” is simply a program administered either by the prosecutors or the University of Arizona Dean of Students Office. The student cited for Minor in Possession of alcohol takes some classes, writes a paper, pays a fine or fee, and the cases are closed. This may happen without the intervention of an attorney.
Finally, we see too far too many cases where a young erson under twenty-one years of age is stopped while driving an automobile on or near campus, stopped by either the Tucson Police Department or the University of Arizona and arrested for a second crime. And they get arrested even though they are not DUI.
Maybe what most surprising about Arizona underage alcohol law is when an underage person is driving an automobile , they don’t need to be impaired, or be over the “legal limit” of 0.08 to be charged and convicted of a crime.
In Arizona it is a special crime, to have any amount of alcohol in your system if you are driving and under twenty-one years. See ARS 4-244.34 (“For a person who is under twenty-one years of age to drive or be in physical control of a motor vehicle while there is any spirituous liquor in the person’s body”). The crime is a “class one misdemeanor.” See ARS §4-246(B). Unlike simple Minor in Possession cases, these Minor in Possession of Driving cases, under §4-244.34 do not always easily wind up as dismissals. And unlike over 21 DUI, the underage drinking and driving consequences include a mandatory suspension.
Key Take Aways
Tens of thousands of students at University of Arizona are under twenty-one, and attend an institution renowned for it’s partying culture. We see too many cases where young people are exposed to being charged with crimes, and called into the Dean of Students Office for alcohol on campus. These cases, at least the non-driving minor in possession of cases depending on the circumstances may thankfully be resolved, at the discretion of the prosecutor without conviction. Minor drinking and driving cases, in contrast, aren’t normally so easily resolved.
In Arizona, if you are under 21 you basically can’t legally drink .Any amount of alcohol in your system with few exceptions, nearly always no matter where you are and what you are doing, is illegal.
This Guide is designed to help the parents of the UofA students make informed decision in protecting the future of their children.
First, understand that in the dorms, your child’s privacy rights as a practical matter are left at the key-carded entrance.
The Arizona state courts may have signaled a new willingness to intervene in campus sexual misconduct cases in a case called Doe v. AZ Board of Regents.
The Courts continue to grapple with the difficult question of fairness in university and college student discipline cases.
About Michael Harwin
Michael’s skill and experience have been recognized repeatedly. He holds an A-V 5/5 preeminent rating by Martindale Hubbell. He has been named one of the top lawyers in Arizona by Southwest Superlawyers, and one of the best lawyers in Tucson by Tucson Lifestyle Magazine. He also has been named one of the best lawyers in the United States by BestofUS.com , and given the highest rating possible by AVVO, 10/10 Superb. Amazon Books