Harrisburg – The Pennsylvania Senate approved two bills sponsored by Sen. Jake Corman (R-Bellefonte) aimed at cracking down on problematic drinking, particularly in college towns, by increasing maximum fines and assessing a fee to pay for prevention measures.
Senate Bill 941 increases the maximum fine limit for underage drinking violations and public drunkenness, to $1,000. The current maximum for underage violations is $500 on second and subsequent offenses, and $300 for all offenses of public drunkenness.
“Municipalities are continuously facing the rising costs of alcohol related crimes, and those costs are borne by someone – in this case, the taxpayer,” Corman said. “The goal here is to give the judiciary discretion to make a larger impact as it sees fit on the person violating the law, and to provide a more appropriate deterrent so that the individual makes better decisions the next time around. Additionally, if higher fines are chosen, the municipality and tax payers will see relief in the cost they bear, this time paid by the actual violator.”
The $300 fine for public drunkenness has not been changed since 1972. If adjusted for inflation, the fine would be $1,650.
Senate Bill 943 adds a $100 fee to all alcohol related offenses in municipalities that include all or part of a university or college, and which choose to create an alcohol prevention unit. The fee appropriately addresses the serious and increasing impact alcohol offenses have on municipalities and is critical to the continuation of proven prevention programs.
“Drinking violations are a burden across the Commonwealth, but in college and university settings such as State College, the problem is crippling,” stated Corman. “We have seen a lot of good come out of the efforts by prevention programs to engage the student community and organizations to prevent alcohol problems before they happen,” said Corman. “Those types of programs can have a big impact. Hopefully, this legislation will be able to reduce the costs to taxpayers by preventing the alcohol violations from happening in the first place.”