Few arrested for alcohol, marijuana

If you drink alcohol under age or smoke marijuana in your room at Tech, you are unlikely to be arrested, according to our analysis of the Georgia Tech Police Department (GTPD) crime logs from the beginning of the fall semester until the end of March.

Of the 67 cases related to alcohol (not related to driving), two were arrested, only one of whom was a student. This case also involved criminal trespass. Of the 25 marijuana-related cases, 13 involved an arrest. Of these, only one was related to students for possession and unrelated to a vehicle. In this case, the students were found on a roof and fled when GTPD arrived on the scene.

In one of the reports, GTPD case number 15010146, the involved student was not afraid of getting caught.

“[The student] stated he heard from friends that Georgia Tech Police, unlike other colleges, don’t make arrests for marijuana. [He] stated this is why he kept and smoked marijuana on campus. [He] had heard from friends that the punishment would be a small fine. I advised [the student] that even though I wanted to arrest him for the violation, he would be issued a Student Code of Conduct that would be dealt with internally and criminal prosecution would be declined.”

According to Chief Robert Connolly with GTPD, in minor possession cases of marijuana (less than one ounce), they would not arrest students, but instead issue them a Student Code of Conduct and send them to the judicial process.

“If it’s just a minor possession case, where the city would only let us write a ticket, they won’t go to jail anyway,” Connolly said. “Now we feel that we have more effective means within the student affairs and Housing to handle them internally.”

Connolly stated that a similar policy is in place for underage possession of alcohol.

“Our education program, we feel, is more effective even than sending you down to the city which will only get a diversion case anyway,” Connolly said.

According to John Stein, Interim Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students, most first-time offenders for alcohol and marijuana get either probation or a warning.

“If a student goes to the hospital with potential alcohol poisoning, it starts usually at the probation level, because it’s not just the underage drinking … it’s also life-threatening, endangering behavior, which is the actual code violation,” Stein said. “They place themselves potentially in a situation where they threaten their own life by what they did. Anything less than that would probably go with a warning to begin with.”

If a student is a repeat offender, the charges may get more serious, possibly including suspension.

“When a student is involved in something and they get caught, I would say most students, their biggest fear … is that they’re going to get arrested or they’re going to get suspended. Anything that falls short of that almost translates to nothing really happened. That doesn’t mean nothing happened, they’re still held responsible.”

One major goal of taking students through the school’s process is what Stein calls the “care component.” Students have to take a drug or alcohol diversion course and see a counselor to see what help the student might need.