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.

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