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Fast facts about turning 21 at Penn State

A 21st birthday can mean many things to a student, including the ability to go to the bars and legally drink, go to concerts in 21-and-over rooms and visit local breweries and tasting rooms. Students who turn 21 have the ability to go out for dinner with friends and have a glass of wine or a pint of beer.

With freedom, however, comes responsibility. Penn State University expects students to behave in a responsible manner. But sometimes impaired judgment or poor decision-making takes over, and suddenly a fun night out becomes a headache at best, or criminal charges at worst. There can be downsides to turning 21 if a student acts carelessly.

· Driving under the influence. We all know that drivers get arrested for a DUI if their blood alcohol level is over .08. But there can be a variety of other issues that immediately come into play for drivers in the wake of a DUI. Not only will they get arrested and go to jail, the whole ordeal will cost a good chunk of money. Their license will be revoked or suspended. They will be put on probation and will have to take an alcohol education course, or they will go into treatment.

· Supplying alcohol to minors is never a good idea. Those who provide alcohol to a minor are in violation of state law. That cute sophomore may seem cool, but of-age students must resist the temptation to give the under-age student a drink. Let it be someone else's problem because it always comes back to those who provided the alcohol.

· Excessive consumption. This is defined in the PSU student handbook as a person who is intoxicated "to the degree that the person may endanger self, other persons, or property, or annoy persons in the vicinity." Students should be mindful of this when they are on or near campus. A word of warning: The language here leaves a lot of room open for interpretation by the authorities.

· Parents will likely be notified. Unless the student is or will be age 24 during the academic year, a veteran or in graduate school, parents will be notified. This is a letter that parents never want to receive.

After a DUI or other alcohol-related offense at PSU, the smart thing to do is reach out to an attorney experienced in defending college students. A defense attorney will go through all the details of the case to devise the best approach to reduce or dismiss the charges.

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