Sen. Jake Corman’s bill that may increase the maximum fines incurred for underage drinking and public drunkenness is headed to the desk of the governor.
“We didn’t raise fines necessarily; what we did was we increased the maximum allowance for a fine,” Legislative Director for Corman Scott Sikorski said.
The fine for a first offense of public drunkenness will rise from $300 maximum to $500 minimum, Sikorski wrote in an email. Second and subsequent offense fines will be a maximum of $1,000, he said.
Underage drinking fines would go from a minimum of $300 to $500 for the first offense. Second and subsequent offenses will rise from $500 to a $1,000 maximum, he said.
Sikorski said the bill, officially referred to as Senate Bill 941, will serve as a more forceful deterrent when it comes to underage drinking and public drunkenness, both summary offenses.
Having passed the General Assembly, the bill of Corman, R-Centre, has been delivered to the governor’s desk, awaiting his signature in order to be drafted into law, Sikorski said.
“The whole premise of both bills came out of meetings that Senator Corman held in the Centre County region about the issue of problematic drinking,” Sikorski said.
The bill has garnered support from multiple institutions, such as the State College Borough Police Department, the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association and the Pennsylvania Chiefs Police Association, he said.
Testifying before the Senate and House Judiciary Committee on the bill, State College Police Chief Tom King further stumped for the bill.
“We feel that for our community and many others like ours…that this particular legislation was needed,” King said.
King said the fine structure hasn’t changed for almost 40 years. He said the new law could have a deterrent effect that “it once had several decades ago.”
Penn State Professor of Sociology Eric Silver, who specializes in the study of deviant behavior, said the heftier fines attached to these crimes may not have the intended effect in decreasing crime.
“Research shows that from a potential offender’s perspective, the severity of punishment is less important than the certainty and swiftness with which the punishment is likely to be applied,” Silver wrote in an email.
Silver said as long as the typical college student continues to perceive his or her chances of being caught as low, raising the fines for public drunkenness and underage drinking is not likely to make much of a difference in the rate of offending.
Associate Professor of Crime, Law and Justice Derek Kreager wrote in an email that intensifying the penalty might not necessarily be the answer in cracking down on criminal behavior.
He said when it comes to the deterrent effect of punishment, the research has suggested that outside factors, such as increasing police presence or public surveillance, may help more than the perceived threat of the fines, Kreager wrote.
“However, this is not to say that increases in punishment severity will have no effect,” Kreager wrote. “Rather, the effects are likely to be smaller than those of greater enforcement.”