Over Homecoming weekend, 30 University of New Hampshire (UNH) students were arrested on campus. Of those 30 arrests, 26 were directly related to alcohol, including unlawful possession of alcohol by a minor, transportation of alcohol by a minor, internal possession of alcohol and unlawful intoxication.
“What happens in that situation is the person is placed in custody, arrested, handcuffed and brought back to the station. They meet with the bail commissioner who would give them a court date in the future, about one to two months in the future, and the court date is called an arraignment date where you enter a plea of guilty or not guilty,” Detective Sergeant and Prosecutor Frank Weeks of UNH Police told The New Hampshire. “That typically is a person’s first introduction to the prosecutor, but what we try to do is be accessible before that time.”
These are considered violations, and not criminal offenses. If it is determined that the individual is a harm to themselves or others during the arrest, they can be placed into protective custody.
“Generally speaking they get released that night unless they’re highly intoxicated, in which case they get placed in protective custody,” Weeks said.
Someone placed in protective custody would be placed in a police cruiser and taken to a holding cell until they are determined to be in control of their faculties and released. There is no additional violation for being placed in protective custody. However, if that same individual vomits in the crusier or damages any police property while in protective custody, they will be charged with criminal mischief, a separate violation.
After being arrested, the arraignment would take place at the 7th district court in Dover, New Hampshire. The fine rate for unlawful possession of alcohol is $372.
“$300 is set by the statute. I can’t go any lower than that. There’s a court-imposed penalty assessment of 24 percent on any fine, and what that 24 percent does is fund the court system, so it turns into $372,” Weeks said. “If this is the first time you get arrested, we try to craft some sort of agreement so you don’t have a criminal record coming out of it, because even though unlawful possession of alcohol doesn’t appear on your criminal record, it does appear on your motor vehicle record,” Weeks said.
Weeks explained that while motor vehicle violations usually expire after three years, unlawful possession cannot be purged from the record unless directly requested. In that case, Weeks said they would have to file a motion with the court saying they want the record to be annulled, “as if it never happened.”
There is also a possible loss of driver’s license.
“Given the fact that students have jobs, internships, there are commuter students, a car is a big deal. It’s a pretty hard impact for college students to lose their license for 10 days,” Weeks said. “For unlawful possession, initial suspensions don’t go any higher than 30 days and 10 is typically what you see coming out of the Department of Motor Vehicles for a first-time suspension. What I’m trying to do is it make it fair to that person’s unique circumstances.” Apart from legal proceedings, the university possesses their own guidelines regarding these issues.
Depending on the specific UNH college a student in enrolled, the school’s dean would contact the student to set up a meeting, while the Student Board of Conduct would place a strike on the student’s account, as outlined in the Student Rights, Rules, and Responsibility handbook, which states that a strike is “(1) a conduct violation that resulted in at least probation; (2) a violation of the Academic Honesty policy; (3) an arrest; or (4) a criminal charge or conviction.”
Acquiring one or two of these conduct violations could force students to undergo any number of sanctions ranging from writing apology letters and attending alcohol awareness courses, to losing privileges such as participating on sports teams, studying abroad, or receiving scholarships. Every act of misconduct is specific to the individual, but UNH strives to treat everyone equally, with the ultimate goal being rehabilitation.
“When we determine a consequence in the face of an incident, we entertain the totality of the variables with the intent to make sure the student understands their role in their own management of their brand and management of their health and safety,” Dean of Students and Senior Vice Provost of Student Life Ted Kirkpatrick said. “With the first arrest, the likelihood of being rearrested is very small, but we do have that happen and at the point of a second arrest then it ups the ante. The sanction might be a little bit more severe depending on the circumstances. If you’re just talking about the general chocolate or vanilla offense, two possessions of alcohol, no one’s going to take serious action against you other than the fact you have to go to court and pay your fine.”
Dean Kirkpatrick stated he is aware that underage students will still choose to drink, and while simultaneously insisting they do not need to drink, he encourages students to be aware of the alcohol of whatever beverage they’re drinking.
“A lot of students, especially the young ones, feel that they do it because they think everybody is doing it, almost one third of our students, and we know this from our surveys that we do annually, choose not to drink at all,” he said. “It’s just not true that everybody is doing it. We want to make it clear that it’s a choice. You have to be mindful about developing personal habits that keep you on this side of dysfunctional or maladaptive behavior.”