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UT students who are charged with a misdemeanor criminal offense may utilize the legal
services program to obtain legal advice about their legal rights and in criminal matters
where the student faces a possible jail sentence, they can also obtain court representation
by contacting us at 419.530.7230 or stop by our office located in Suite 1533 of the
The following types of criminal matters are handled by the Program:
- Underage consumption/possession of alcohol
- Disorderly conduct
- Chronic Nuisance
- Petty Theft
- Criminal Trespass/ Criminal Mischief
- Furnishing alcohol to minors
- Drug offenses
- Fake Identification
Even if you do not see your criminal offense listed, please contact Student Legal Services at 419.530.7230 or stop by our office located in Suite 1533 of the Student Union as we may still be able to offer you advice or referral to another entity that may be able to assist you. Student Legal Services does not provide advice or representation in felony cases.
The following frequently asked questions are intended to help you understand the dynamics of misdemeanor and other criminal offenses.
- We are thinking about having a party. What is our responsibility?
- What should I do if I get stopped by the police?
- What should I do if a stop seems unfair or illegal?
- What should I do if I get arrested?
- If I am charged with a crime, do I have to go to court?
- What will happen if I contest my criminal charges?
- Can I get a criminal conviction expunged?
- What is the law in Ohio regarding alcohol consumption/possession?
WE ARE THINKING ABOUT HAVING A PARTY, WHAT ARE OUR RESPONSIBILITIES?
Hosting a party, even a small gathering with friends can expose you to both civil and criminal liability especially if you are planning on serving alcohol. The following are some things you might want to consider before tapping that first keg or inviting that first guest.
Know the Perils of Having a Party
Anytime you host a party you risk problems with:
- noise violations,
- disorderly conduct,
- improper parking, and
- lease violations.
In the event alcohol is served, the risks increase dramatically to include criminal law violations such as
* furnishing alcohol to an underage person, and
* hosting a public party without an alcohol permit.
Likewise, you may be liable for money damages if an underage person obtains alcohol at your party and that person later causes property damage or personal injury to another. Of course, an underage guest also may be charged criminally with possession or consumption of alcohol.For further information please see The Party Guide.
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WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I GET STOPPED BY THE POLICE ?
Cooperate with the officer. “Cooperation” is defined as answering any questions you are comfortable answering. If you are in doubt, request an attorney and state that you want any further questioning to be done in front of your attorney. Courts have held that law enforcement officers can stop you and ask that you identify yourself. They can also ask you where you are going and where have you been. Keep your answers short and concise. Do not volunteer information or give rambling answers.
Many students feel compelled to play 20 questions when confronted by a Police Officer. Or, some students try to play the wise guy or “cop an attitude” with the officer. When confronted by an officer of the law for any type of violation, the best thing you can do is to cooperate. Do not play 20 questions. Do not try to hide anything. Do not play the wise guy. If you decide to give the officer a hard time, it will only make the situation worse and possibly lead to an arrest. It is easier for your attorney to fight one charge, rather than having to fight charges for “resisting arrest” and “obstructing official business” as well. Further, there is nothing worse than having to make that “one phone call” from a holding cell at the jail and having to explain to your parents.
WHAT SHOULD I DO IF A STOP SEEMS UNFAIR OR ILLEGAL?
If you have been stopped by a Bona fide law enforcement officer, you should follow the general rule, “Cooperate”. Provide the officer with all basic information and request an attorney to be present during questioning. Follow the procedure even if the stop seems “unfair” or “illegal”. The time and place to “fight” the illegal stop is in the courtroom with the benefit of legal counsel.
- You have the right to remain silent. Do not give explanations, excuses, or stories. Save your defense for when you are in court. Tell the police nothing but your name and address.
- You have the right to have a lawyer. If you cannot afford to hire a lawyer, you have the right to a free lawyer. Ask to see a lawyer immediately. Limit your responses to the officer's questions to only the basic information - name, address, etc., Avoid responding to questions concerning the alleged crime or incident without first talking to an attorney. Do not make any decisions about your case without talking to a lawyer. CONTACT US AFTER YOU HAVE BEEN CHARGED WITH A CRIMINAL OFFENSE.
- You have the right to make phone calls. When you are arrested, you are entitled to make phone calls within the local area to a lawyer, bail bondsman, a relative or any other person. It is a good idea to call a relative or friend first who can make other calls for you.
- You have the right to appear before a Judge on the next court day for a hearing on release on bond or without bail. You may ask the Judge to lower your bail or to be released "on your own recognizance" (without bail). Don't hesitate to present to the Judge your reasons why you should not remain in jail pending trial, even if you don't have a lawyer yet.
- Keep in mind that you have a constitutional right not to answer questions and to seek the help of your attorney.
IF I AM CHARGED WITH A CRIME DO I HAVE TO GO TO COURT?
Generally, if you are charged with a minor misdemeanor criminal offense you do not have to appear in Court and can pay a bond to waive your appearance. Minor misdemeanor offenses are punishable by a maximum fine of $ 150.00 and/or court costs. These types of offenses are not punishable by jail. The following are examples of minor misdemeanor offenses: noise violations, open container, etc. If, on the other hand you are charged with an offense that is classified as something greater than a minor misdemeanor such as a 4th degree, 3rd degree, 2nd degree, 1st degree or any type of felony offense you will need to appear in Court as these offenses are punishable by a possible jail sentence. Examples of these types of offenses include: petty theft, underage consumption; use of a fake identification, criminal damaging, chronic nuisance, obstructing official business, etc.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN IF I CONTEST MY CRIMINAL CHARGES?
If you want to contest the criminal citation, you must appear in court.
A. The arraignment:
Your first scheduled court appearance before a Judge is called an arraignment. At this hearing, your identity will be confirmed orally, you will be informed of your constitutional rights by the Judge, and the charge against you will be read. You will be asked how you wish to plead: “guilty” or “not guilty” or “no contest”. If you plead guilty or no contest the Judge will impose the sentence. If you plead not guilty, the matter will be set for a court trial at a later date.*Please note: Student Legal Services does not appear at jail or arraignment. For representation, please contact us after you have been arraigned.*
Sometimes, depending upon the Court’s schedule and the type of criminal charge, it may be possible to schedule your case for a Pre-trial with the Prosecutor. This is an informal meeting with the Prosecutor to discuss the facts of the case to determine if the case can be resolved without a trial. If so, the parties can enter into a “plea bargain” which is then presented to the Judge for approval.
C. The trial:
At your trial, the Judge will often only hear testimony from all witnesses, with the State proceeding first. After each State’s witness testifies, the defendant is given the opportunity to ask the person questions if the defendant so chooses (cross-examination). The defendant is not required to call any witnesses when he/she presents his/her own case. If witnesses do testify for the defendant or the defendant testifies, such persons are also subject to cross-examination by the prosecuting attorney.
A defendant who represents himself/herself should carefully prepare his/her case in advance, including preparing all questions to be asked of each witness. The questions should be asked in a concise objective, and non-argumentative manner. A defendant who chooses to testify and who is not represented by counsel, can testify in narrative form. The narrative should be clear and concise, focusing upon issues directly relating to the defendant’s position as to why he/she is not guilty.
If a person is found to be ‘not guilty” by the Court, there is no conviction and there can be no sentence.
Sometimes, no witnesses appear at trial for the State. If this occurs the defendant should ask the judge to dismiss the case against him/her “with prejudice” (forever) because of the State’s failure to prosecute. The Judge will normally grant this request.
If you are found guilty, normally the Court will consider the circumstances of the offense, your past record, and any other helpful information before passing sentence. The defendant should be prepared to present such information to the Judge in an objective manner before the sentencing occurs.
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CAN I GET A CRIMINAL CONVICTION EXPUNGED?
Expungment is a legal process in which you can clean up your criminal record. If you are successful, it's like the conviction never happened. Generally, to be eligible for expungment, you:
- Must be a first offender
- A certain amount of time must pass between conviction and requesting the expungment of that conviction (for misdemeanors, that time period is one year)
- Have no pending criminal charges at the time of the request
- Have been "rehabilitated".
For more information about expungments, please click here.
WHAT IS THE LAW IN OHIO REGARDING ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION/POSSESSION?
In a college atmosphere students are susceptible to the pressure from peers to consume alcohol. Most college students consume their first prior to reaching the specified age required by law. You have a responsibility to follow the laws of your city, state, and nation. If you fail to live up to that responsibility, you may face certain penalties. This section describes the potential legal consequences of committing an alcohol-related criminal offense.
Underage Consumption, Purchasing or Possession of Alcohol: The legal drinking age in Ohio for consumption of an alcoholic beverage is 21 years old. Anyone purchasing, possessing, or consuming alcohol prior to their 21st birthday is guilty of a first-degree misdemeanor. The maximum penalties associated with this offense are 6 months imprisonment and/or a $1,000 fine. A person under the age of 21 “holding” an alcoholic beverage is in “possession” and subject to prosecution for a first-degree misdemeanor.
Providing Alcohol to an Underage Person: Further, a person who furnishes alcohol to an underage person is guilty of a first-degree misdemeanor. The maximum penalties associated with this offense are 6 months imprisonment and/or $1,000 fine. Thus, a social host faces criminal liability for allowing underage persons to consume alcohol at his party if he knows the person is not 21 years of age.
Fake ID: Possession or display of a fictitious identification is a first-degree misdemeanor. The offense includes mere possession of a fictitious license or display of someone else's valid operator's license. The maximum penalties for this offense are 6 months imprisonment and/or a $1000 fine. Moreover, if the fictitious operator's license is utilized to purchase alcohol or enter an establishment that serves alcohol, the minimum fine must be at least $250.00 and the person displaying the fictitious operator's license may have his valid operator's license suspended for 3 years.
Disorderly Conduct: Do you get loud and boisterous when you drink? Do you have violent tendencies when you consume alcohol? Disorderly conduct occurs when one recklessly causes inconvenience, annoyance, or alarm to another due to offensive conduct. Disorderly conduct while intoxicated can be charges as a forth degree misdemeanor or a minor misdemeanor. The maximum penalty for this offense is 30 days in jail and/or a $250.00 fine.
Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs (DUI): Not only is Driving Under the Influence a great way to harm yourself and others, it is also a criminal offense. In Ohio, a person may not operate a motor vehicle if he is impaired by alcohol and/or drugs. The maximum penalties for operating a vehicle while under the influence for a first time offender is 6 months imprisonment (mandatory 3 day stay in jail is imposed) and/or a $1,075.00 fine. In addition, the operator must forfeit his driving privileges for at least 3 months. Penalties increase with each successive driving while under the influence offense and may also vary depending upon the results of any chemical tests administered by law enforcement.
Open Container: In Ohio, it is illegal to possess in public an open container of alcohol either in public or in a motor vehicle. If convicted of this offense, the maximum penalty is a $150.00 fine. Consumption of alcohol in a motor vehicle is a fourth degree misdemeanor with maximum penalties of 30 days imprisonment and/or a $250.00 fine.
For more information, please see Alcohol and the Law