Thursday, October 22, 2009

Attorney gives students advice: Annual ‘Know Your Rights Workshop’ focuses on students, police interactions - THE BADGER HERALD

By Lindsay Berger

In preparation for this year’s Halloween festivities, a Madison-area lawyer met with University of Wisconsin students and community members Wednesday evening to arm them with strategies for “surviving Freakfest.”

The annual “Know Your Rights Workshop,” co-sponsored by the UW American Civil Liberties Union Student Alliance and the UW Legal Studies Association, highlighted laws that pertain to student activities on campus with an emphasis on helping students avoid Freakfest legal altercations.

“The laws that we talk about here are ones that are particularly geared toward students, situations that may arise for them as a student and choosing what behaviors to engage in,” said Erik Guenther, a lawyer at the Madison law firm Hurley, Burish & Stanton. “It’s important that they have an appreciation of what the consequences are.”

Guenther focused primarily on the legal complications that result from drug use, sexual assault, battery, use of fake identification, underage drinking and house parties so students are aware of their legal rights and are able to interact with police responsibly.

In regard to house parties, Guenther said students can be fined for both dispensing liquor without a license and serving alcohol to minors, yielding a total fine of nearly $800 per underage person in attendance. In his experience as a lawyer, Guenther said he worked with a client whose house party received $440,000 in fines.

Guenther said students are not legally required to let police into their houses unless they grant them permission, they have a search warrant or illegal substances are in plain view. However, police can enter a house if they smell illegal substances like marijuana.

Guenther advised students who are planning on hosting house parties to remind their roommates and guests not to let police into their houses.

“You want to be in charge and also decide whether this particular guest is potentially worth $800 to you,” Guenther said.

Reginald Young, a UW freshman who attended the event as a member of the Pre-Law Society, said he was surprised to hear that it was possible to receive two separate tickets for one houseguest.

He added that he is not concerned about dealing with the police on Halloween.

Guenther added police are often trained with tactical strategies to persuade students to allow them entry into house parties and get them talking.

Other information Guenther said students should know is that they can legally refuse to be subjected to a Breathalyzer test and that sharing a joint is considered transfer of drugs, which is a felony.

One of the smartest strategies students can use to engage with police is to simply avoid talking to them, Guenther said.

“It’s very common for people to not know that they have the right to say ‘I choose not to talk,’” Guenther said.

Event organizer Steve Horn, social chair of UW’s Legal Studies Association and a Badger Herald columnist, said the workshop aims to provide students with information that is relevant to a university he said is well-known for its party culture.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Workshop preps students to know their rights at Freakfest - THE DAILY CARDINAL

By Alyssa Connolly

Anticipating the approaching Halloween festivities next weekend, UW students and Madison community members gathered to learn about their rights regarding police confrontation at a workshop Wednesday.

Madison criminal defense attorney Erik Guenther led the event, which was hosted by several organizations, including the UW American Civil Liberties Union, the Legal Studies Association and the UW-Madison College Republicans.

Guenther encouraged UW- Madison students to learn and understand the laws about how to conduct themselves when confronted by police.

“You’re presumed to know these things, so it’s not a defense to say, ‘I didn’t know it was in the book,’” Guenther said.

According to Guenther, the “book” refers to the extensive list of Wisconsin statutes that Guenther says are largely unknown to college students, a fact that can get them in trouble.

Guenther said a common cause of police-issued citations and arrests is disorderly conduct, which encompasses a wide range of behavior including violence, abusive or indecent behavior, profanity, boisterous activity or arguing.

According to Guenther, police officers can easily make disorderly conduct arrests because these types of behaviors can be claimed in most situations.

“It’s easy for law enforcement to have a reason to arrest you,” he said.

He mentioned several rules for dealing with police that can help minimize repercussions. First, he said to be polite to police officers. He said they are much less inclined to use handcuffs if you are calm and composed with them.

Secondly, Guenther said, never lie to police officers. Although they can legally lie to you or use tricks to get you to talk, lying to the police is a crime.

Lastly, he said it is important to make neither a written nor oral statement without a lawyer present. He said it is not uncommon for students to accidentally confess a crime when confronted by police.

Guenther also spoke about specific crimes and their repercussions, including drug use, drunk driving, battery, possession of a fake ID and hosting house parties. He also offered advice about what to do if a police officer shows up at your door.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Sprucing up your criminal client for court - WISCONSIN LAW JOURNAL

by Jack Zemlicka

October 19, 2009

Image matters. And it especially matters when your criminal client is facing trial.


There’s a risk that allowing a client to be too comfortable can damage his or her credibility.


While criminal defense attorneys agree that sloppy or too-casual clients can be a problem, “overdressing” a client is also risky.

Outside appearances count

Hurley, Burish & Stanton attorney Erik R. Guenther notes that the need for a professional appearance can extend outside of court.

If there is a trial with significant public interest, Guenther recommends controlling the client’s image in the media, even before opening arguments are made.

“I generally will try to provide a studio photo of a client [to the media] rather than a mug shot,” he said.

Assuming a client is not in custody, Guenther typically makes arrangement to have the person get a professional head shot done at a local studio. He then circulates the pictures to various media outlets that may have an interest in the case. He said that most choose to run the head-shot.

“It’s really not just white-collar crimes, but anything that generates media interest,” Guenther said. “It’s a way to remind people that there is a presumption of innocence and my client has a right to a fair trial.”

The full article is available here.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

ACLU Student Alliance and Legal Studies Association to Host Know Your Rights Workshop in Preparation for Annual Halloween "Freakfest" Activities

University of Wisconsin-Madison’s American Civil Liberties Union Student Alliance and Legal Studies Association will co-host a timely “Know Your Rights Workshop” on Wednesday, Oct. 21 from 6:30 – 8:00 pm at the Mosse Humanities Building, Room 3650, located on 455 N. Park St.

Co-sponsors include the Criminal Justice Certificate Program, the Criminal and Juvenile Justice Student Association, College Democrats, College Republicans, Young Americans for Liberty, Students for Russ Feingold, Pre-Law Society, Students for Equal Access to Law School, and Wisconsin Union Directorate Society and Politics Committee, making it a truly nonpartisan event.

The workshop will be led by Madison criminal defense attorney Erik Guenther of the Hurley, Burish, and Stanton Law Firm, who also serves as a volunteer attorney for the ACLU of Wisconsin and is the sitting President of the ACLU of Wisconsin Board of Directors.

"I have been doing Know Your Rights Workshops for students at colleges throughout Wisconsin since 2003. The Bill of Rights is nothing more than a piece of paper if people don't understand the protections that they have from government intrusion,” said Guenther. “Many people, including students, wrongly believe that they are required to allow police to search their property and wrongly believe that they have to answer questions asked by police. These workshops educate the audience about the fundamentals of our Constitutional protections. Too many young people premise their understanding of the Bill of Rights upon incorrect information from television or vague notions from textbooks. I talk about how the Bill of Rights relates to the real experiences of students."

The workshop will take place ten days before the annual Halloween “Freakfest” activities, scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 31. “Freakfest” has consistently resulted in many arrests of students and community members. In 2008, 77 attendees were arrested.

"At the ACLU of Wisconsin, we get calls or complaints from people who feel their rights were violated by law enforcement," said Stacy Harbaugh, ACLU of Wisconsin Community Advocate. "It is important for every individual to understand their rights in traffic stops, searches or any other encounters with police. This workshop teaches the details of everyone's rights to privacy and to be free from self-incrimination."

Event co-host ACLUSA-UW aims to be a campus and community civil rights educator.

“The ‘Know Your Rights Workshops’ are just a small, but important sample of the work we do on-campus and in the Madison community,” said ACLUSA president and senior Jessica Johnson. “Most people are unaware of the extent and details of their civil liberties, so we want to change that.”

During Freakfest 2008, members of the ACLUSA-UW handed out “bust” cards to attendees, meant to serve as a reference for party-goers in the event that they are stopped by police.

“The cards got a very positive response among those attending Freakfest and far fewer arrests occurred than in past years,” said Johnson.

For additional information on the “Know Your Rights” workshop and the ACLUSA-UW, contact Steve Horn at or (262) 705-5856 or Jessica Johnson at or (303) 653-6524.

About the ACLU

The American Civil Liberties Union is a national organization defending civil liberties as well as protecting constitutional and civil rights. The ACLU of Wisconsin is a membership organization that defends the civil liberties and rights of all Wisconsin residents in a non-partisan manner.

About Legal Studies Association

The mission of the LSA is to promote the professional and social development of students interested in law related careers through educational and social experiences with other students, academic professionals, and community leaders.