State police investigate underage consumption

By Elizabeth zinchuk

On the eve of the drinking holiday Polar Bear, state police released the results of an investigation into southern Illinois businesses on their alcohol selling practices.

The investigation involved looking into businesses that had been accused of selling alcohol to minors. A total of 23 stores in Benton, West Frankfort, Sesser, Whittington, Christopher, Ziegler and Royalton were investigated. Of these stores, three of them were cited for unlawful delivery of alcohol to a minor. Carbondale was not among the investigated towns, but is still dealing with underage alcohol consumption.

According to Carbondale City Ordinance, there is a minimum $250 fine for an underage possession or consumption offense. Someone who provides alcohol to a minor can receive a penalty of up to $2,500 and one year in jail, according to Illinois State Police data.


A report released by the Local Liquor Control Commission in August showed Pinch Penny Pub having 64 liquor law violations, Sidetracks having 63 and Cali’s/Saluki Bar having 37 between July of 2012 and June of 2013. The Liquor Law Commission in Carbondale expressed concerned in the August City Council Meeting.

Department of Public Safety Lieutenant Harold Tucker said when it comes to issuing citations for underage alcohol consumption, many times the culprits come to them and not the other way around.

“Basically we will come across underage drinkers in our daily routine of patrolling the campus area,” Tucker said. “Many times we find them because they were involved with something else, like maybe a fight.”

Tucker said DPS often finds underage drinkers in other situations involving domestic issues or property damage. Often times, he said they are just outside the residence halls on a picnic bench.

Even though DPS is not designated to check in bars, Tucker said underage drinkers are often found walking from one bar to another.

Tucker said reprimanded underage drinkers are, usually issued a pay-by-mail citation, which they have to mail with the fine amount within 14 days or make an arrangement with court for trial. Reasons for going to court, he said, could include receiving an alternative punishment such as community service.

“Most people are very, very cooperative but since they have been drinking that leads to other things like resisting or causing other problems,” Tucker said.


Beyond the citation, Tucker said every underage drinker cited is also reported to Student Rights and Responsibilities, which determines extended consequences beyond the law.

“That kind of holds you to your obligations as a student and community member,” Tucker said. “It represents the university’s concerns of the individual’s character.”

Chad Trisler, director of Student rights and responsibilities, said Carbondale Police, DPS and state police report to his department when a student gets a ticket. At that point, he said the student gets sent a notice.

“Students then have the opportunity to either request a hearing and say ‘wait there is more detail to it’ or ‘that’s not me they have the wrong name’ or they can accept responsibility for it and say ‘yes that was me,” Trisler said.

Trisler said from the point they own up to their offense or not, Student Right and Responsibilities tries to educate and not punish.

“We don’t want to mess with anyone’s life or anything,” Trisler said.

Students who are first offenders go to the Wellness Center where they do two one-hour classes that inform them about the downsides of drinking alcohol, Trisler said.

“Basically our goal is to make sure they know how alcohol affects the learning process, what the laws are, what the health effects are,” Trisler said. “We are not trying to tell people to never drink again, we are just trying to help them make responsible decisions.”

Jawana Green, a hearing officer with Student Rights and Responsibilities, said her department does not get too involved with the classes because confidentiality is important for the process.

“That gives the students the ability to go to the Wellness Center and be honest, and share what’s going on because there could be some background things happening that’s causing their behavior,” Green said. “At the end of the day we want people to learn about the situations.”

Green said she recommends students browse the student code of conduct so they are aware of their rights. She said it is put into place to help students.

“It’s not about saying ‘go to this or go do that’ but about really learning from it,” she said.

Trisler said there are usually more serious issues going on for repeat offenders. In this case, he said, one-on-one counseling is provided for as long as the counselor deems necessary.

“At that point we get concerned if there is an alcohol problem,” Trisler said. “We know that is one of the biggest reasons students don’t graduate.”

Pebbles Prince, an undecided freshman from Chicago, said she believes underage drinking is not a bigger problem in Carbondale in comparison to other college campuses.

“I think all colleges, not just Carbondale, see a lot of underage drinkers,” Prince said.

Prince said one issue is that older students often buy alcohol for younger students. Krystal Arnold, a freshman from Chicago studying psychology, said an issue she recognizes is the age students are allowed to enter a bar.

“I think it’s easy to drink underage because you only have to be 19 to get into a bar,” Arnold said. “I think it’s not any more of a problem anywhere else.”

Elizabeth Zinchuk can be reached at [email protected],  on Twitter @elizabethz_DE or 536-3311 ext. 256.