The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

Students should know their inherent rights

Nicole Robinson

Eau Claire’s legal environment has taken on a much different look from when the drinking age was 18. After 1984, when the drinking age changed to 21, local law enforcement has been taking multiple approaches to numerous situations, political science professor Michael Fine said.

About 23 students gathered at 8 p.m. Wednesday in Schneider Hall for the “Know Your Rights” Panel.

Held by Eau Claire’s Society of Politics, the panel allowed students to address key figures in the Eau Claire and campus community about their legal rights and what they can and can’t do regarding the law.

“It surprises me at how little I know about my own rights,” senior Lisa Huftel said.

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The panel consisted of Fine, James Tubbs, associate professor of political science, Mary Liedtke, an assistant state public defender and David Sprick, the University Police Director.

Fine said the environment has changed in Eau Claire as of late. Police are now quick to issue citations to students. The best defense, he said, is to be careful, especially because of Eau Claire’s increased enforcement.

Liedtke said students could avoid citations such as noise violations if they knew they could lock the door and turn off the lights during a loud party.

“You have no obligation to talk to them,” Liedtke said. “You don’t have to open the door.”

Students, however, should be cautious when they are addressing an officer, mainly because of how serious a simple situation can become when factors like alcohol are involved.

“The single best thing you can do if stopped by a police officer is courteously say to the police officer, ‘Officer, what should I do to make this go away? Can you just give us a warning?’ and the answer is usually yes,” Fine said.

The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution also became a topic of concern, regarding probable cause. Liedtke said if a police officer pulls someone over for a traffic violation, the officer does not have the right to search the vehicle for anything else unless given consent.

“The police will try to intimidate you,” she said. “They will try to scare you. They need to have a reason.”

Sprick said officers have the right to use trickery and deceit to get information, which Liedtke said does not make them bad officers because it is their legal right.

Students should avoid making statements during a conviction because of the damage it can do to them later, Liedtke said. The hard cases to crack are usually when someone is guilty, but keeps their mouth shut, she said.

Senior Matt Rivard said each person’s perspective on the panel helped bring about a wide range of information, which was essential to the presentation’s success.

“I thought I was pretty well informed, but there are definitely a lot of things that I didn’t really know,” Rivard said. “(It’s) really important to know, especially in a campus setting.”

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Students should know their inherent rights