Wednesday, October 13, 2010

‘College Life’ star tells story at Know Your Rights event - THE BADGER HERALD

By Pam Selman

After three University of Wisconsin students received more than $85,000 in fines from a Sept. 11 house party, UW’s American Civil Liberties Union Student Alliance hosted a session Tuesday night to discuss student rights.

The event featured two key speakers who addressed prominent concerns facing college students.

Kevin Tracy, a UW junior and one of the house party hosts, opened the event by speaking about the bust and voicing his concerns about the way it was handled.

More than 130 citations were handed out to the party’s hosts for dispensing alcohol without a license, procuring alcohol for an underage person and for being adults encouraging underage alcohol consumption, though police said the fines would have been less if the hosts had answered the door immediately upon police arrival.

Tracy used the ACLU’s program as a forum to share his side of the story after national media portrayed Tracy and his roommates as being uncooperative with the police.

Tracy said when the police arrived he was upstairs, and his two other roommates were in the basement. When Tracy went downstairs, four police officers were already in the kitchen.

The program’s second speaker, Erik Guenther, an attorney with Hurley, Burish and Stanton, warned students that anyone at a party can allow the police inside, which waves the right to privacy without a warrant.

Still, Tracy said the worst violation was the invasion of privacy that continued even after police left when they released the names of the three hosts to the media and public.

Additionally, he said a violation of the Eighth Amendment took place with excessive fines of $28,187 per host.

“We’re trying to figure out what we did wrong and how what we did was different than any other one of the thousands of college students who have thrown parties,” Tracy said.

Guenther said Tracy’s case is not isolated — he has represented cases where UW students were charged more than $496,000 for similar house parties, but added the charges in these types of cases are routinely reduced.

To avoid such charges, students should never open the door or speak to police if they arrive at a party, Guenther said.

Though students usually know they must follow police directions, Guenther said students must also understand their rights and know police cannot enter the premise without a warrant. This law does not apply to students living in campus-sponsored dorms.

Additionally, he said police can legally lie to students and are therefore likely to say that consequences will be worse if students do not immediately cooperate without a warrant.

The event drew a crowd of students filled with questions on underage drinking, illegal substance use, use of fake IDs and disorderly conduct.

Andrew Fajnzylber, a junior at UW, said the event was important for students because college students often believe they do not have rights or are too afraid to ask for them, but this workshop gave students the opportunity to learn.

“Students could really easily respond to the talk because it was simple with a powerful message,” he said.

(The article is available here.)


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