Students had the chance to ask a University lawyer how to avoid
minors in possession of alcohol violations at a discussion in the
style of a town hall meeting last night. This meeting is the first
in a series called “Know Your Rights” that the Michigan
Student Assembly is hosting in an effort to inform students of
their rights when facing alcohol infractions.

Laura Wong
Doug Lewis, director of Student Legal Services, answers questions from students on how to avoid getting a minors in possession of
alcohol citation at the Michigan Union last night (CHRISTINE STAFFORD/Daily)

Jesse Levine, student general counsel, said, “there is a
huge problem of too many students receiving alcohol violations
early in the year. … We want students to be aware of their
rights and act responsibly without receiving citations.”

About 20 students gathered in the assembly’s chambers in
the Michigan Union to ask Doug Lewis, director of Student Legal
Services, questions on how to avoid receiving a MIP and other
citations for breaking alcohol laws.

Lewis began the discussion by confronting mistaken beliefs among
students regarding alcohol laws, including the common assumption
that a student cannot receive an MIP if he or she is seen drinking
on private property.

“The police don’t care where you’re
standing,” Lewis said. If a student under 21 is seen
consuming or possessing alcohol, he or she can still receive an
MIP, regardless of where the student stands, Lewis said.

But Lewis said the private property belief does apply to the law
against opening an intoxicant in public. If a student who is of the
legal drinking age opens an alcoholic beverage on the sidewalk in
front of his or her house, that student can be ticketed, but if the
student cannot be fined if he or she steps onto their own private
property.

Lewis also refuted what he called a common assumption that when
an officer addresses a student, he or she must respond.

“Any cop can walk up to you and say ‘How’s it
going,’ but an officer can’t force you to say
anything,” Lewis said. Throughout the discussion, Lewis
continually advised students to keep silent when confronted by the
police.

While Lewis said the only guaranteed way to avoid an MIP is not
to drink underage, but he also recommended his top three methods to
minimize a student’s chance of receiving an MIP.

“First, if you must drink, stay at home,” Lewis
said. “Leave cans, cups and bottles at the place you’re
leaving.”

Lewis also told students they should avoid going back to the
same bars with fake identification. “If you are in possession
of a fake ID or another’s real ID, it’s a …
misdemeanor,” Lewis said.

Students also raised questions about noise violations. Noise
violations frequently result in MIPs, Lewis said. Some parties keep
kegs at the front door, which becomes an easy target for officers
investigating a noise complaint, he said.

If an officer comes to a student’s house or apartment
because of a noise complaint, a sober resident should answer the
door, have his or her ID with him, and always pull the door shut
behind him. If the officer tries to enter the residence, a student
should specifically say, “You do not have permission to enter
my residence,” and make sure another person is present to
witness the statement, Lewis said.

Officers may enter a student’s home, however, if they
clearly witness a violation such as a minor drinking alcohol, or if
given consent to enter by an occupant of the home.

Lewis also said students living in University residence halls
have fewer rights when it comes to letting an officer in their
rooms. When students living in residence halls sign their resident
contracts, they also agree to let an officer into their dorm room
at anytime.

“There is an urgent need for students to be
informed,”Levine said. “We want to prevent students
from getting arrested, more or less.”

The next meeting of the series will be held on Oct. 27 in the
MSA chambers in the Union and will address lease signing and
housing issues. Lewis is slated to attend along with a
representative of the American Civil Liberties Union.

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