Alcohol and Crime

Although most people consume alcohol safely, there are some who do not, leading to a connection between alcohol and crime. To purchase or drink alcohol is not illegal under most circumstances. This article clarifies the relationship between alcohol and crime.

Types of Alcohol and Crime Relationships

Alcohol can be involved with crime in several different ways. An alcohol related crime can be committed before alcohol is consumed, as it is being consumed, or on account of the behavior of someone who has consumed alcohol to excess or who does not make good decisions for a person who has consumed alcohol or for other reasons.

Purchase and Consumption: Alcohol and crime can be connected by the very fact of alcohol being purchased, possessed by, or consumed by a person who does not meet the requirements for drinking in the state in which he or she purchases, possesses, or consumes the alcohol. In addition to underage crimes, another type of crime related to the purchase and consumption of alcohol is the use of a fake ID, or - compounding crimes - a stolen ID. If another person lends an ID to a person who cannot legally drink or provides alcohol to a person who cannot legally drink, the crime may involve someone other than the person who purchases, possesses, or consumes the alcohol. In fact, if the alcohol is provided and the underage person does not know that what he or she possesses or consumes is or contains alcohol, the person who possesses or consumes the alcohol may not be committing a crime because he or she was deceived. The possession and/or consumption of alcohol can also be associated with the crime of theft, either from family or through shoplifting, for example.

Driving Under the Influence (DUI) or Driving While Intoxicated (DWI): Driving While Intoxicated with alcohol can cause damage to property and life: both the car itself, its driver, and passengers, and people and property outside of the car. In addition, DWI can be linked to other types of driving violations that do not necessarily result in damage or injury, such as speeding, running stop signs or red lights, driving in places not meant for vehicle traffic, trespassing with a vehicle, etc.

According to the National Partnership on Alcohol Misuse and Crime (NPAMC), alcohol-related vehicle accidents kill almost 13,000 people each year in the United States, while the number injured is in the hundreds of thousands. Additionally, 1.4 million people experience a DWI arrest each year, with 780,000 or almost 56 percent, receiving a conviction, of which two-thirds, or 520,000, are repeat offenders. A study cited by a study published in the Journal of Drug Issues in December, 2004 reported a range of findings connecting alcohol consumption by drivers to accidents, with percentages ranging from 12.5% of drivers involved in crashes having consumed alcohol to 79% of drivers involved in crashes having consumed alcohol, depending on the study. Alcohol-related car crashes are reported to cost US taxpayers more than $100 billion.

Use of Another Illegal Substance: A 2006 study on underage alcohol use published by DHHS (Department of Health and Human Services) reports that 35.8 percent of those aged 12-20 who used alcohol in the previous month had also used an illegal drug, while 16 percent used an illegal drug within two hours of their most recent use of alcohol.

Other Crimes: There are other crimes associated with alcohol consumption, including domestic or dating violence and assault. Research reports from NPAMC indicate that 36 percent of people "under correctional supervision" at the time of one study (that is, 5.3 million people) had been drinking at the time they committed the offense for which they were convicted. A study reported on found that as per capita consumption of alcohol rises in the United States, so do the rates of assault, rape, and robbery (but not murder), and the rates of these crimes fall as the state level of tax on beer rises.

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