Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Students learn rights, how to interact with police at Mifflin - THE DAILY CARDINAL

By Grace Urban

As the annual Mifflin Street Block Party approaches, students were given the opportunity Tuesday to learn how to conduct themselves should they be confronted by law enforcement.

Erik Guenther, an attorney with Hurley, Burish and Stanton, S.C., spoke with students at the Know Your Rights workshop. The event was organized by the American Civil Liberties Union and was the second this semester.

Guenther said there are three basic rules students should follow when attending the block party: be polite to police officers, never lie to them and make no statement without a lawyer present.

“Your chances of being convicted of a crime go up if you give the police something to convict you,” he said. “You can’t get charged with obstruction [of justice] for lying if you never say a word.”

Guenther said there are basic laws every student should be aware of.

“You’re not allowed to say, ‘I didn’t know that was against the law’ [in your defense],” he said.

Guenther added it is important to remember that citizens are under no obligation to speak with police or let them into their home or apartment without just cause or a warrant.

“You never have to let them in,” he said. “Just say no.”

Partygoers should be careful to follow the rules and not attract attention to themselves if they want to avoid being arrested, Guenther said.

“The police have limited resources, and they’re going to single out people that stand out to them,” he said. “So make sure you’re at least the second-drunkest person [there].”

The three main rules for the block party are not to have open alcohol, not to hold glass bottles and not to urinate publicly, he said. Guenther left attendees with one final thought: “Be polite, assert your rights.”

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