I remember being a freshman in college and being given advice about my rights. Unfortunately, most of that advice was flat out wrong. Having had the opportunity to represent countless college students over the last several years, it seems that they are still receiving that bad advice. So for you high school seniors heading off to college in the fall, here are my top ten rules that you better keep in mind:
1) Police don’t have to tell you they are “cops” – I don’t know where this rumor came from…probably the movies. But it’s not true. Law enforcement can flat out lie to you. So asking an officer to tell you if he is an officer isn’t getting you anywhere.
2) You can possess alcohol just by drinking it - Too many times have I had clients tell me, “I saw the cop coming so I chugged my beer and threw the can away…how can I be charged with possession alcohol?” My answer, “because that’s the law.” In Virginia, smelling like alcohol and behaving intoxicated is enough.
3) Smelling like marijuana is enough reason for the police to search you and your car – If you smell like marijuana, no amount of Axe Body Spray is going to save you. And you’re not tricking anyone either. You’re better than that. And you’re also an adult…get rid of the Axe.
4) You’re 18…no more blaming mom – That means if you get charged, it’s an adult charge. That also means it stays on your record. So keep that in mind when you friends try to convince you to do something that your mother wouldn’t approve of.
5) More than one person can possess an illegal item – If your friend wants a ride and has something you wouldn’t want to get caught with, tell him to toss it or he’s walking.
6) You can get a DUI even if you’re not driving – Recently, I’ve had a string of clients drink too much. Instead of driving however they make a good decision to wait. The problem is they wait in their car – with the keys in the ignition. Well, in Virginia, that’s enough for a DUI. In reality, “operating” a vehicle while intoxicated is against the law. And “operating” means operating any part of your car, including keys in the ignition. So for those of you with enough sense to not drive, have enough sense to stay way from your car all together. And for those of you UNDER 21, you’re not supposed to be drinking – period.
7) Reckless driving is a crime – This rule is a bit of a surprise for out-of-staters. In Virginia, simply driving 20 miles over the speed limit (or any speed over 80 miles per hour) is a Class I misdemeanor. That’s the same class charge as a DUI. So take it easy on the pedal when making your way back home for the holidays.
8) You don’t have to let police search your home, bag, or pockets – I will qualify this rule with “DON’T BE A JERK.” Police need reasonable suspicion to pull you over and probable cause of a criminal activity to search your car. They can get around the probable cause with your consent. You DO NOT have to provide consent.
But the worst client for any criminal defense attorney is a young college kid who was a jerk to an officer and spent 20 minutes informing the officer of his “rights.” It makes you look arrogant, rude, and spoiled – and no judge wants to help out someone who is arrogant, rule and spoiled. If an officer asks to search, a simple, “officer I have nothing to hide, but I cannot grant you consent to search,” is fine.
9) If you’re going to break the law, only one at a time please – Look, I’m no fool. I’m also no angel either. I am a realist. And I know that college kids get into trouble. But, for Pete’s sake, only one at a time! If I had to count the times that I represented someone who got pulled over for speeding and ended up with a DWI, possession of marijuana, etc. charge…I’d be an accountant. Law enforcement encounters involve them catching people breaking the law, and THEN investigating FURTHER. And they usually charge you with EVERYTHING they can.
10) No means no. Drunk means no. Under 18 means no – If this is not self explanatory, send me an email and we can discuss.