Under Age

Sep 142006
Authors: Kaitlin Snook

Since this is my last week of being “under age,” I thought it would be appropriate to write about something that really only affects those 20 years old and under: MIPs. MIP stands for Minor in Possession of alcohol, otherwise known as a drinking ticket.

With the second anniversary of the death of Samantha Spady just passing, the controversy that is underage drinking is heating up. It’s well known that Larimer County is incredibly harsh on underage drinkers, but are they, perhaps, too harsh?

When I was a freshman at CSU, I lived in Westfall, a dorm that was known for its residents’ mischief. Cops always roamed the halls looking for trouble. Around October, I just happened to get caught in that trouble. One night, about 15 kids were playing Edward 40 Hands in my room-in case you’re not familiar with the game, you tie a 40-ounce bottle of malt liquor to each of your hands without going to the bathroom until both of the 40s are empty.

I actually wasn’t even playing the game. I was just drinking and hanging out with everyone else. One of my friends left my room and ran face first, right into a cop’s chest, getting their attention and sending them into my room. Now, that friend didn’t get an MIP, and neither did anyone else there that night.

Just me.

Like an idiot, I didn’t know my rights. I let the cops into my room and when they asked me to show them the bottles, I pulled them right out from under my bed. Whoops. In court, I straight out confessed and pled guilty to underage drinking, not really aware of what was coming to me.

Do you know what the consequences are for an MIP? Because of all of the drinking-related incidents in the fall of 2004, Larimer County no longer offers deferred sentences. A deferred sentence is usually given to a one-time offender, allowing them to do community service instead of an actual punishment. Now, if you were to get an MIP, you would be sentenced to do 24 hours of community service, forced to take an alcohol class, and you’d lose your driver’s license for three months.

So, are these punishments too harsh? No. I don’t think they’re too harsh, but I do think the punishment needs to fit the crime, and in this case, it definitely doesn’t. I was nowhere near my car when I got my MIP, and I definitely wasn’t even thinking about driving.

Yet, I lost my license and as a consequence of that, my insurance has gone up. I had never gotten a ticket and I had never had points removed before, but suddenly, it was no longer legal for me to drive. Driving had nothing to do with the crime I had committed, but the district attorney that handled my case just said that driving is a privilege that can be taken away.

OK, so I lost a privilege. But, what did that teach me? It taught me not to get caught drinking in the dorms; it didn’t teach me not to drink.

I think it’s unrealistic to assume that college students, and even high school students, aren’t going to drink under the age of 21, but I do think there could be a way to make them more responsible.

It’s sad that the death of a fellow student was the only thing that could send a wake-up call ringing around campus and what’s worse, is that only two years later, we seem to have forgotten what the realities of drinking can be. Losing the privilege to drive isn’t fair and doesn’t alter our minds and losing a peer, although tragic, still seems to change little.

CSU should be working with Fort Collins police to promote responsible drinking. It’s unreasonable to expect students not to drink, so instead of using ridiculous punishments to get into our heads, why don’t you try something that might work? Maybe try to actually teach us something for once.

Kaitlin Snook is a junior technical journalism major. Her column appears Fridays in the Collegian. Replies and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

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