If you're heading to college this year, you'll probably find out that there's a party happening somewhere every weekend—and many of those parties will have alcohol served. It can be pretty easy for most college students, even those under the legal drinking age of 21, to get a few drinks. That's why it's important to understand a few things about DUIs and college life.
1. Drinking and driving are all too common.
One out of every five college students admits to driving drunk. Even more frightening, 40% of college students admit that they've gotten into a car knowing that the driver is drunk. With access to things like Uber, traditional cabs, and campus safety programs that provide sober drivers, there's never an excuse to get behind the wheel drunk—nor should you ever get into a car with a drunk driver. If you don't trust yourself not to drink and drive, make sure that you find a party within walking distance only.
2. If you're caught drinking and driving on campus, the penalties are now stiffer than ever.
A few decades back, campus police took a different attitude toward college drinking. If you were picked up by the campus police, you probably got your keys taken, dropped off at your dorm room, and had a follow-up appointment with the school's student counselor or dean. Today, there's zero-tolerance policies in all 50 states that prohibit anyone under the age of 21 from having any measurable alcohol in their system. There are now mandatory penalties for people of any age caught drinking and driving, and getting caught by campus police just means that you'll be turned directly over to the regular police for arrest and booking.
3. Your college experience could be wrecked.
Even if you don't get into an accident, getting caught drinking and driving can wreck your future. Many colleges and universities have their own private discipline codes that apply to drunk driving, which can impose additional penalties on top of any DUI conviction. Make sure that you understand your school's official policy—some require students who are charged with a DUI to report the charge or face suspension. If you're ultimately convicted of the charge, you could face expulsion. Getting admitted to another school may not be easy, either—many schools prohibit students with a criminal record from attending. Those that do allow you to attend may prohibit you from living anywhere on campus.
4. Your future career could also be derailed.
Some employers won't hire anyone with a criminal background, including a DUI conviction. If you plan a career in education, medicine, accounting, or law, your DUI conviction could bar you from getting a professional license due to morality clauses and a perception that you are a "high risk" candidate. Your choice of future careers could be sharply limited simply because of one DUI.
Hopefully, you'll make the right choices and avoid ever having to deal with any of these possibilities. If you make a mistake, however, the smartest thing you can do is contact a DUI attorney in your area to discuss your case. An attorney may be able to help you avoid a conviction altogether or get you admitted into a diversion program that will prevent the most serious consequences and eventually give you a clean record.