Howard police warn students, parents about underage drinking

ELLICOTT CITY, Md. - Howard County police are being reminded of the consequences of drinking as prom and graduation season kicks into high gear this week.

"Too often, we have seen this time of celebration turn into a time of tragedy," said Chief William McMahon in a statement. "Criminal charges related to underage drinking can change a person's life. Even worse, serious injury or death can turn what should be a new beginning into a tragic end."

Police said possessing alcohol under the age of 21 can result in multiple criminal charges, including alcohol possession, misrepresentation of age to obtain alcohol and possession of a fake ID. Each charge carries a $500 fine and violators must appear in court. Additionally, the use of a fake ID can result in the loss of your real license for up to one year.

Charges for consuming alcohol while driving, or driving under the influence each carry fines of $500 and, for a DUI conviction, the loss of license for 120 days or more. Young people driving with provisional licenses must be conviction-free for 18 months before they are eligible to obtain a driver's license.

Also, adults can be charged criminally with obtaining or furnishing alcohol for anyone under the age of 21. These charges each carry a fine of $2,500 and violators must appear in court.

In addition, the police department is sending letters to hotels and motels in Howard County asking them to strictly enforce their policies of not renting rooms to anyone under 21. The police department is asking hotel employees to call police if parents or other adults try to rent rooms for minors.

The county is again awarding all 12 high school's Parent Teacher Student Associations (PTSA) grants of $2,000 to be used to pay for facility rental, food and refreshments, and/or entertainment at each school's "Project Safe and After Prom" party.

Police will also increase traffic enforcement on roadways around high schools in the county, particularly during arrival and departure times. The police department hopes the police presence will reduce speeding and aggressive driving, and increase seatbelt use among student drivers.