In Georgia and throughout the U.S., the legal drinking age is 21. Each year across the country, many foreign students are arrested at U.S. colleges for drinking underage, even though they are old enough to drink in their own countries. Many of these students, unfortunately, likely do not know how serious underage alcohol consumption and possession is treated here in the U.S., and a criminal conviction can put the immigration statuses of such students in jeopardy.
Earlier this month, a University of Georgia student was charged with underage possession of alcohol. The 19-year-old student is from Brazil, where the legal drinking age is 18.
University police were contacted by a student assistant Oct. 1 because the student was having trouble getting into his dorm room early one morning. An officer reportedly smelled alcohol on the student and the student admitted he had consumed alcohol.
The young man later told the Athens Red and Black that he was not worried about drinking alcohol because drinking in his home country is common practice.
He explained of the arrest: "It was just hilarious because it's just such an alien experience to me."
Although, of course, people must respect the laws of the country that they are in, when a law seems very foreign it can be somewhat unnatural to do this. In this case, it is probably unlikely that the young man realized that not only is drinking illegal under the age of 21, but authorities take this very seriously.
Minors who face charges for the consumption or possession of alcohol are often wise to seek legal counsel so that the case can be resolved in a way that will not result in long-lasting consequences. This can be especially important for foreign-born students who may later wish to apply for visas or residency in the U.S.
Source: Athens Red and Black, "UGA student charged with underage possession said he had 'enough' to drink," Oct. 1, 2012