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Hold my beer...Miami University makes substantial changes to alcohol policy - Part One

105A Intoxication and Prohibited Use of Liquor 

As part of its updated 2018-2019 Code of Student Conduct ("Code"), Miami University made significant changes to its alcohol policy. The most noteworthy change is the Code's new distinction between "fermented alcoholic beverages" and "distilled liquors."

Under recent versions of the Code all alcoholic beverages were treated the same. But under the 18-19 Code underage consumption or possession of "distilled liquors" is a higher-level offense than consuming or possessing "fermented alcoholic beverages" underage. 

While the Code doesn't define these new terms, it does provide a list of examples under the 2.1.E. Alcohol 105 section. "Fermented alcoholic beverages" includes "beer, wine, cider, mead or sake." Whereas "distilled liquors" includes "vodka gin, rum, tequila, whiskey, scotch, brandy."

In short, if an underage student admits to or is found to have possessed or consumed a "distilled liquor," then that is treated the same under the Code as if the student was intoxicated. This is a substantial change in policy by Miami. Previously, underage possession or consumption of alcohol, but not intoxication, was a lesser-offense that avoided mandatory suspension for a second violation in two years.

Under the new Code, the following actions are treated the same under 105(A); and, thus are subject to a "two strikes (in two years) and you're out" policy:

  • Intoxication
  • Exhibiting negative behavior associated with intoxication after consuming alcohol
  • Underage possession or consumption of distilled liquor
  • Furnishing distilled liquor to any person under 21
  • Permitting any person under 21 to consume distilled liquor in your residence ("e.g. residence hall room or off-campus residence")

The new 105(A) section is much broader than previous versions. For example, if you were found responsible for intoxication your sophomore year and then when you're 21+ you host a party where "distilled liquor" is consumed by people who are underage, you will be found responsible for violating 105(A) again. If these two events happen within a two-year period, Miami's policies require a minimum sanction of suspension. If the events occur outside a two-year timeframe, Miami's policy is still the same: suspension is discretionary, but not mandatory.

Deciding to simply accept responsibility for 105(A) when there is a valid defense or possibility to have the charge reduced to 105(B) and hoping nothing goes wrong in the next two years could end up in a mandatory suspension. Once a prior violation has been accepted, you cannot go back and challenge it when you receive a second violation.

Even if a student is not criminally charged, and is only subject to Miami disciplinary proceedings, it is crucial to speak with an attorney who is familiar with the Code, Miami's hearing process, and the potential impact on that student's ability to continue as a student at Miami University.

105B Prohibited Use of Fermented Alcohol/Open Container

As part of its updated 2018-2019 Code of Student Conduct ("Code"), Miami University made significant changes to its alcohol policy. The substantial changes to 105(A) were discussed in Part One; if you have not read that post, please go read it now to understand the new broad-sweeping reach of Miami's 105(A) alcohol policy.

Under recent versions of the Code, 105(B) was treated as a lesser-included offense of 105(A)-meaning that if an underage student was found "not responsible" for being intoxicated, that student could still be found "responsible" for violating 105(B)'s prohibition against possessing or consuming alcohol while under the legal age. In some ways, 105(B) is still treated as a lesser-included. However, given the Code's new distinction between possessing or consuming "fermented alcohol" and possessing or consuming "distilled liquor," with the latter being viewed as a more severe offense, underage possession or consumption of liquor is no longer a 105(B) violation. (Please read our detailed breakdown of 105(A)'s changes here.)

Under the new code it is still a violation of 105(B) to be under the legal age of 21 and to consume or possess wine or beer ("fermented alcohol"). It is also still a violation of 105(B) to furnish wine or beer to anyone that is underage.

However, much like the new 105(A), the 18-19 version of 105(B) is also casting a wider net. The new version prohibits:

  • Underage possession or consumption of fermented alcohol
  • Furnishing fermented alcohol to any person under 21
  • Permitting any person under 21 to consume fermented alcohol in your residence ("e.g. residence hall room or off-campus residence")
  • If age 21 or over, possession of alcohol in an unauthorized location

Previously, 105(B) was titled "Prohibited Use of Alcohol" and prohibited "underage possession, consumption, consumption in unauthorized locations, or furnishing of alcoholic beverages to any person under legal age to consume alcohol." By contrast, the new version of the 105(B) explicitly prohibits what the law calls "open container" violations for those students that are 21 years or older.

Ohio law R.C. 4301.62 generally prohibits possessing an open container of beer or intoxicating liquor in several locations, including a public place and in a moving vehicle (see our post on open containers in vehicles here). A violation of R.C. 4301.62 is a minor misdemeanor-meaning it carries a maximum fine of $150 but no possibility of jail time. Now under the Code, a citation for open container, even if 21+ years, will be a violation of 105(B).

Presumably, this new 105(B) language regarding 21+ year old students also governs possessing alcohol in "dry dorms" or other places on campus that do not allow alcohol.

Unlike 105(A), two violations of 105(B) within a two-year period does not trigger a mandatory suspension. However, three violations of 105(B) within a two-period does require a minimum one semester suspension. If a student has a mix of different violations (e.g. 105(A) violation her freshman year and a 105(B) her junior year), then suspension is not mandatory, but is still a valid discretionary option for the Office of Community Standards to impose as a sanction.

Deciding to simply accept responsibility for 105(B) without seeking advice from counsel and then hoping nothing goes wrong in the next two years could end up in a mandatory suspension. Once a prior violation has been accepted, you cannot go back and challenge it when you receive a second or third violation.

Even if a student is not criminally charged, and is only subject to Miami disciplinary proceedings, it is crucial to speak with an attorney who is familiar with the Code, Miami's hearing process, and the potential impact on that student's ability to continue as a student at Miami University.

Significant changes were also made to 105(B) which are discussed here

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