Student Charged with Fake ID, Underage Drinking, or Other Charge?

This video features Frank Walker, a Criminal Law attorney based in Pennsylvania.

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Video Transcript:

Frank Walker:

That they're going to find me, whether it be tomorrow, next week, next year, or ten years from now.

Rob Rosenthal:

Sometimes when young people go off to college for the first time, they might get into trouble. Do you know what to do if that happens? Well we're going to find out right now, because that's what we're going to ask the lawyer.

Hi again, everybody, I'm Rob Rosenthal with askthelawyers.com and my guest is Pittsburgh attorney Frank Walker. Frank, thank you for making some time to join us today. I appreciate it.

Frank Walker:

Thanks for having me.

Rob Rosenthal:

I want to remind everybody, if you have questions about your specific situation that you'd like to ask a lawyer, make sure to go to askthelawyers.com, click the button at the top of the screen that says “Ask a Lawyer”, and you can do that right there. But right now, I'm going to ask some questions. Frank, let's start talking about college students; maybe they get in trouble, bad things happen, is this something you've had some experience with in your practice?

Frank Walker:

Yes, definitely. In my practice, it's different because with college kids sometimes it's their first time going off to college, they’re seventeen, eighteen years old, they're officially an adult, they get to college campus, and that first week which we call syllabus week, you maybe go to class, get the syllabus, then you go out and party, you get to know your freshman classmates, upper class mates, and you learn the campus a little bit. Well, what students don't understand is that their permanent address is probably still with their home, back home where they came from. When they get in trouble, get a citation, some upperclassman speaks in their ear and says, “Don't worry about that. Go to court. Pay the fine. It's not a big deal. Your parents will never find out.” Well, your parents do find out because the citation and the paperwork is going to be sent back home to your permanent address, the parents are calling you, now they spend all this money to get you to go to campus, get you into college on that campus, and they're thinking, “Well, is that degree going to be worth anything if you have a criminal record? I need to find someone to help you out and make sure that record remains clean, so let me call an attorney who's experienced in that area.” And a lot of times that call comes to my office.

Rob Rosenthal:

I'm sure some parents say, “Oh, I've got a buddy, or I know somebody who knows somebody here in my hometown.” But it’s probably a better idea to contact an attorney where the citation happened, right?

Frank Walker:

Yes. You definitely want someone who's on the ground in that area near that campus, who knows the players, knows the officers, the courts, the prosecutor; someone who knows everything about the system and how it works, because there are some collateral consequences that come along with a citation. Sometimes you may lose your license; you may have a hold on your account with the student account, and you may have to see the Student Conduct Board. So you want someone who's local in that area, who understands all that's involved in that sanitation.

Rob Rosenthal:

Let's talk about DUI and DWIs. Just from the beginning, what is your advice as say a student, they're away from home, they get a DUI while they're at college. What’s your advice? What should they do?

Frank Walker:

Make sure you save your paperwork. Contact your parents. Contact a lawyer. Stay offline. A lot of times students think they're smarter than everyone else because let's face it, they're in college, so at that point, everyone knows 18 and 19-year-olds, you know everything, you're invincible. So you go online, you research the laws, you understand I can go to court and represent myself, and it's a disaster. It is an absolute disaster. You need someone who's experienced, who knows what the penalties are, what you're facing, and how it can impact your license down the road. You may get past the criminal part of it, but now you've lost your license or you have an interlock device, or you have to do some safety classes that you didn't know about, and now you can't graduate or you can't renew your license in your home state because you have a hold in this state because you have a DUI here. So make sure you keep all your paperwork, remain silent, don't go calling the police officer, don't call the court, don't ask any questions of the clerk, contact your parents if you're not able to find an attorney or just try to find an attorney who's experienced in DUI. You don't want someone who's doing, again, real estate law or contract law, to represent you in a DUI case. You want to make sure they’re experienced in your area, in the area where you are.

Rob Rosenthal:

If they're taken to jail and if they're arrested, does that change things?

Frank Walker:

It does and it doesn't. If you go to jail, you still want to make sure you maintain your paperwork, the rules are still the same. Don't talk to anyone, don't show anyone your paperwork. Instead of talking to your classmates on campus, you're talking to the classmates of your cellmates in the cell beside you, both bad ideas. The advice that they're giving you didn't work for them because they're in a cell beside you, so you want to make sure you remain silent, find an attorney, keep your paperwork, once you get out of jail, take your information to the attorney and make sure you're very truthful with them because attorney-client privilege exists between you and the attorney. Make sure you tell them everything so they know how to best help you.

Rob Rosenthal:

What about social media? Is that something they need to be careful about?

Frank Walker:

Oh man, social media. It's a blessing and a curse, because you get a lot of information at once, but then you can put out a lot of information at once and sometimes that information is not helpful. For example, let's say you are at a party and you do something crazy and of course you're live streaming it because you want everyone to know you're at this party, and if something happens later on and the cop starts asking, “Well, who was at this party?” And you've seen something or you've done something, and you're not supposed to be there because you're not 18, or you were not supposed to be drinking because you're not 21, but you're on video drinking and at the party, so you're in trouble. But of course, you put it on social media, so now officers all they have to do is log on, look at your profile, prey off the pictures, show up at your door, and you have a problem. So just stay off social media. Keep social media social with other people; don't put any legal stuff on there and definitely don't put any illegal stuff on social media.

Rob Rosenthal:

What are some of the other areas that, in your experience, you've seen college students get into trouble with in that they might need help from someone like yourself?

Frank Walker:

I call it college crimes. It’s like small stuff, it just... well, for lack of a better phrase, stupid stuff; fake IDs, underage drinking, public consumption, public urination, disorderly conduct, making unreasonable noise, going to parties, giving someone the keys and helping them make an understanding if they are drunk and aiding them in drunk driving, reckless driving, hit and run, just making poor decisions because you're impatient and you want to grow up too fast, or you want to do something that you're not supposed to do and you just don't have the willingness to say no, peer pressure, impatience. Sometimes just being in a place where you just don't really need to be at that time; a lot of times it's just lack of judgment, and you're just not making the best decisions at that time, which is understandable. The job of the attorneys is to make sure that's not going to harm you for the rest of your life.

Rob Rosenthal:

And that kind of leads me to the next question. You mentioned that they may think, “Well, I can hide this from my parents.” And maybe it doesn't get sent to their permanent address at home, maybe somehow they don't get that. Is it even possible to hide it from their parents and if so is that a good idea?

Frank Walker:

It’s possible to hide it from your parents, but it's not a good idea. Because in four or five years, whatever, you graduate, now you're applying for jobs, you're applying for graduate school, you apply for different licenses and you may need help from your parents at that time. You're more mature; you may need your parents to cosign for something, and they're wondering why you can't get a loan, or why you can't get into graduate school, or why you don't qualify for any financial aid at medical school or law school. Well, you had this felony on your record, or this misdemeanor on your record, that prevents you from doing a lot of things, like why you can't get into the armed forces. For anything that involves a license, your criminal record matters. Now all of a sudden, your parents are asking questions that you now have to backtrack and tell them about, number one, and number two, explain to them why you didn't tell them about it in the very beginning. So yes, it's possible to hide it from them, but it's not a good idea.

Rob Rosenthal:

It seems to me, as a parent of four children, three of them who are college age, they may not get that letter from the sheriff's department or whomever, but when their car insurance all of a sudden shoots up or something like that, they're going to notice.

Frank Walker:

Absolutely.

Rob Rosenthal:

And then the other thing is a lot of the kids at that age seem to think, ignore it and it will go away; I won't answer the letter. But the government's not going to leave them alone, they're not going to give up on this. Is that right?

Frank Walker:

Correct. The government's not going anywhere. They're going to find you, whether it be tomorrow, next week, next year, or ten years from now, they're going to find you and it's not going to go away, so stop listening to your friends and address it head on. Find an attorney who understands what's going on, show them your paperwork, and let them help you. Be willing to listen and be coachable, because the attorney is going to tell you what you need to do. Sometimes it’s just to take a class, sometimes it's community service, AA meetings, something to show that you're taking the responsible route, that you're taking it seriously. That's what attorneys want to help you understand that judges want to see.

Rob Rosenthal:

What if a student is facing school suspension or something like that, is that an area that an attorney can help him with?

Frank Walker:

Yes. A lot of times students think, “Oh, this isn’t a court. There's no police officer here. I can go in to see Student Conduct any day and they'll give me the benefit of the doubt.” Well, a lot of these schools receive federal funds and it's because they are putting themselves out there as being a safe school, and a lot of times the school has to report what their crimes are, so they have to report that someone got arrested or that the crime rate is a certain percentage. All of a sudden, they may not qualify for certain things, so they have to be really strict on some of the crimes that happen on their campus with their students. For example, if someone's just dealing weed in the dorms, that's a problem. It may not be a big deal in the court system because it's a first offense and, face it, sooner or later they're going to legalize it somewhere, but you may think, “Oh, I’m just selling a couple of grams here. It’s not that big a deal and I’ll make some money.” You might get a slap on the wrist in the criminal system, but the school might not like that. They may suspend you and expel you. Now, all of a sudden, you have to explain to your parents why you have to sit out a year because you wanted to sell a little bit of weed in the dorm because you didn’t think it's that big of a deal. It's a huge deal. When you see the Student Conduct Board you need to have a lawyer who understands what’s going on.

Rob Rosenthal:

Wow. Lots of great information, Frank. I appreciate you taking some time to answer our questions.

Frank Walker:

Anytime. I appreciate it.

Rob Rosenthal:

That's going to do it for this episode of Ask the Lawyer. My guest has been Pittsburgh attorney Frank Walker. Remember, if you have a question about your specific situation, just go to askthelawyers.com, click on the button at the top of the home screen that says “Ask a Lawyer”, and you can do your asking right there. Thanks for watching. I'm Rob Rosenthal with AskTheLawyers™.

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