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.

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