Friday, March 23, 2007

Local attorneys shed light on students’ constitutional rights - THE DAILY CARDINAL


Written by Jillian Levy
Friday, 23 March 2007

As UW-Madison students fill their suitcases for Spring Break, local attorneys and student groups offered them one important item—legal knowledge, advising them how not to get arrested on their vacations at a Know Your Rights Workshop on Thursday.

The workshop, sponsored by UW-Madison’s American Civil Liberties Union chapter and Students for Sensible Drug Policy, informed students on how their constitutional rights can protect them on campus and at their Spring Break destinations.

“It’s important for students to understand their rights,” said ACLU-UW treasurer and UW-Madison junior Mark Eatough.

Local attorneys Erik Guenther and Marcus Berghahn provided students with a visual presentation aimed at raising students’ awareness of their constitutional rights and how to exercise them, instead of seeing the rights as “just a piece of paper.”

The attorneys said legal action against students cannot only affect a student’s criminal record but can result in suspension or expulsion from school.

Both attorneys advised that in situations involving police, on campus or anywhere else, students should follow their “Three Golden Rules,” modeled after the fourth and fifth amendments.

Most importantly, the attorneys advised students not to consent to searches or open the door without the presence of a warrant and not to speak to an officer without a lawyer present.

“Always ask for a warrant because it tells you why they think you’re a criminal,” Guenther said. “You have a right not to incriminate yourself.”

However, they advised students to always be polite to police, regardless of the situation.

Berghahn and Guenther also gave students a list of the 10 most important laws a student should be aware of, among them false identification laws in Dane County.

Guenther said students seeking his legal council regarding fake ID citations are “a dime a dozen.” He said in some cases, a student can be charged with a felony if it can be proved that money was exchanged for the fake ID. In other cases, if police confiscate a fake ID, the student’s driver’s license can be suspended.

UW-Madison senior Leslie Bourget, an intern for the ACLU and planner of the event, said the program would be available to students again next fall.

“I feel like the entire student body should be aware because everyone’s civil liberties and civil rights are something they should be aware of,” Bourget said.

Experts teach break rights - THE BADGER HERALD


by Carl Jaeger
Friday, March 23, 2007

With spring break only a week away, Madison attorneys presented a single message to University of Wisconsin students Thursday night: Know your rights.

During a presentation aimed at educating students about their legal rights, Madison lawyers Erik Guenther and Marcus Berghahn advised students on what to do if police confront them during their mid-semester break — or any time.

Guenther said students should be aware of their constitutional rights if ever questioned by a police officer.

“Assert [your] rights and be polite,” Guenther said. “If police abuse your rights, let the lawyers take care of it later.”

Search and seizures, underage-drinking offenses and fake IDs were among the topics discussed by Guenther and Berghahn.

When it came to police searching students’ houses — or hotel rooms — Berghahn stressed the importance for police to show a search warrant or demonstrate probable cause, such as having contraband in “plain view or plain smell.”

Berghahn said police can enter a house with consent from the resident, but warned that the moment a student gives consent, “you give your rights away.”

“They bully people with their badge and the threat of a hefty citation, and people give them consent,” Berghahn said.

However, Guenther added that students have to be aware of more than just their personal conduct and behavior.

According to Guenther, students could be held liable for the actions of people around them.

“You could be held responsible for your roommate’s actions and face criminal penalties,” Guenther said. “Innocent people can get caught up in the consequences of other people’s actions.”

Guenther and Berghahn also warned students about the consequences they could face for violating laws, including losing their right to vote, their driver’s license or federal financial aid.

The presentation concluded with a list of 10 laws every student should be aware of, including laws on drunken driving, disorderly conduct and battery.

Berghahn said 10 to 15 percent of cases in his Madison practice involve defending UW students who were cited or arrested for incidents involving house parties or alcohol-related violence.

The reason he speaks to students, Berghahn said, is because he has too often heard them say they did not know their rights.

“I thought someone should reach out to them and say, ‘Look, you have to know what your rights are,’” Berghahn said. “The law presumes that you know what the law says, so get educated.”

Yara Korkor, a member of the UW American Civil Liberties Union — which co-sponsored Thursday’s event with Students for Sensible Drug Policy — said the issues discussed were especially relevant to UW students living in Madison.

“There’s a lot of underage drinking on this campus and a lot of using fake IDs,” Korkor said. “It’s important for students to know and engage in what the law has to say about that.”