Over 65 Years Of Combined Trial Experience

College Student Arrests

Through the Looking Glass of the Criminal Justice System

Part I

Most parents of today’s college age students can remember the initial excitement and feeling of freedom as they began their own college experience. At last, on their own, ready to make all the decisions themselves. When bad decisions were made, there were consequences. But they survived basically unscathed.

Current college students are experiencing the same types of excitement and freedoms, but the times have changed and students’ wrong decisions can have a much greater impact on their future. College administrations are no longer as tolerant as they were in the past. This change is a result of the increase of potential liability for the school caused by looking the other way when students’ poor decisions cause potential harm to others.

Further, the campus police forces of the past that were really no more than parking ticket writers, have become trained police departments justifying their existence by actively pursuing any wayward decisions by students that may have criminal consequences.

Local police forces and prosecuting agencies have become much more aggressive in their approach to enforce new and stricter laws that more conservative legislatures have passed in recent years.

In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the home of Louisiana State University ( LSU) and Southern University ( SU), the local police agencies have established specific task forces as well as additional funding in their attempt to curtail Driving while Intoxicated ( DWI DUI) as well as Minor in Possession ( MIP) of alcoholic beverages. These task forces make it standard procedure to constantly patrol those areas frequented by college students and have actually gone undercover into the establishments to sit and observe the students’ interactions alerting other police officers as the students depart the location.

The state and local Alcohol Beverage Control officers have now established a pattern of not only walking the campuses during tailgating of sporting events to locate and cite students who may be imbibing, but stopping students walking between the various apartment complexes near the campuses to check the beverages in the possession of the students.

In addition to the previously mentioned charges, there has been an increase in college student drug charges, particularly Possession of Marijuana and Criminal Damage to Property. Consequently , these aggressive approaches by the agencies have resulted in an increase of arrest and citations to college students in the Baton Rouge area. The law firm of Damico & Stockstill has seen a three fold increase of these types of cases in their practice within the last several years. As the firm has handled these cases, it has become clear that both the parents and their college students have many unanswered questions and concerns. This article will address those questions and provide answers, along with other helpful information.

How should a student respond to being approached by an officer for a possible violation of the law?

Of course, if a person is approached by law enforcement to be questioned, that person should always be respectful and polite. To be otherwise would almost assuredly escalate the whole situation. That being said, the person approached should always remember his constitutional right to remain silent. Understand that the officer is doing his job and his job is to gain evidence that could be used against the person he is questioning. Under most circumstances when approached, the person should tell the officer he does not wish to make any statement or give any explanation. He should state he wants to invoke his Fifth Amendment right and will be glad to speak only after he has an attorney present. The chance to give an explanation of his side of the story can come later once the he has sought legal advice and completely understands the factors that could affect him in the criminal case.

A person’s right to not give potential evidence extends to any type of field testing that the officer may wish to conduct and to any breath test requested by the officer. Both of these procedures are for the sole purpose of gathering evidence against the person to be used in the future in court.

This begs the questions, “What if I don’t believe I’m intoxicated” or” I haven’t been drinking, if I don’t take the test, they will put me in jail”

Any college student under the age of 21 is prohibited from drinking except in very specific situations such as being in the presence of his parents, guardian or spouse who is over 21. A person under 21 who is driving with a BAC of over .02 is considered to be violating the law. These are very low thresholds that even one drink would probably exceed, so to believe a person could pass these tests after one drink is risky. Even a student over the age of 21 can be on the borderline of the .08 threshold with one or two drinks.

Once the police determine that the student is going to be arrested, what happens then and what steps does a parent need to do to get them out of jail?

Some of the charges that we normally see involving students do not involve an arrest. Instead, they are issued a summons. The summons is an agreement by the student to appear in court on a specified date in lieu of being arrested and placed in jail. The types of offenses that commonly involve summons may be Minors in Possession (if the student is not intoxicated), some types of battery or fighting (depending on the severity) and some theft and damage to property (depending on the value of loss). The issuance of a summons does not lessen the potential impact and consequences of the charge if the student is convicted nor does it lessen the need for legal counsel to protect the student’s rights

Most of the other charges, DWI, drug offenses and public intoxication usually involve an arrest and jail. When the student is taken to the jail, he is booked into the parish prison and must await the setting of bail by either a city or district court judge. When the bond is finally set, they must still make arrangements to post a bond before they can be released. It is at this time that the parents are normally made aware of the situation and the anguish begins.

The parent may reside a long distance away since a good number of students are from out of town. They may not be able to get to Baton Rouge quick enough to make arrangements to get the student out of jail. They may not know anyone in Baton Rouge to rely upon to tell them who to contact or how things happen in the Baton Rouge criminal justice system. They are simply stuck a great distance away with very little information and without knowing what to do to protect the student.

Immediately upon learning of an arrest, the parents should first contact an attorney who will navigate them through the system. The attorney will be able to obtain specific information about the actual charge or at least obtain some of the initial facts of the case, contact a judge to set a reasonable bond as quickly as possible, and make arrangements for the parent to bond the student out.

The use of an attorney during the bond setting can be very helpful in that the initial bond that may be set by a judge without any input of the complete circumstances. This can result in a much higher initial bond that may be reduced once additional facts are presented by an attorney to the judge.

In choosing an attorney, it is always a good idea to get a recommendation from someone you trust who knows the legal community in Baton Rouge. If that is not possible, you should utilize the web to your advantage and study their sites to find one you may be comfortable hiring. If you were to contact a trusted attorney in your area who didn’t know the Baton Rouge attorneys, he would almost certainly go to the Martindale Hubbell site looking for an AV rated attorney. It would also be very important to look for an attorney who works primarily in the criminal law area. A good way to find those are to see if they are a member in the Louisiana Association Criminal Defense Attorney ( LACDL) and the National Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys ( NACDL) as these are considered the most prominent organizations for criminal defense attorneys.

Once an attorney is hired and a bond is set, how does that procedure work?

Understand that if you have contacted and hired an attorney, he should provide all of the direction and help possible in getting that bond set and getting the student out of jail.

In Louisiana there are four types of bail bonds that can be used. Their description and negatives are as follows:

Cash Bond

This is a bond where the amount of the bond is put up in cash and retained by the sheriff’s office until the criminal case is resolved. The entire amount of the cash bond is then returned to the person who posted it. Any bond set can be satisfied by a cash bond.

The negative to this bond is that the cash put up for the full amount of the bond is tied up for the entirety of the case which could take two years or more.

Signature bond

This is a bond where the judge allows either the arrestee (ROR) or a competence person over the age of 21, with no criminal history, employed and usually residing in the parish to sign the bond pledging to pay the bond amount if the arrestee fails to appear for court.

The negative to this bond is that to set this type of bond, you will need an attorney to contact the judge directly in that the judge must specifically authorize a particular person approved by them, usually on the word of the attorney. Also, if the person does not reside in EBR parish, special permission would also have to be made. Finally, the law prohibits the use of signature bonds on certain types of crimes.

Property Bonds

This is a bond where immovable property (real estate) that has a net value of the amount of the bond is put up to secure the release of the arrestee.

The negative to this bond is that it takes at least one day to get the necessary paperwork together since everything must be documented through the parish assessor’s office and the parish clerk of court’s office. The one day delay is for property located in the parish. Out of parish could take longer and out of state property is basically ineligible. Finally, when you put up this property, the bond acts as a mortgage on the property and could keep it out of commerce until the case is resolved.

Commercial Bonds

This is a bond where you contract with a bondsman who represents an insurance company. The insurance company then posts the bond on your behalf. Besides the cash bond, this is usually the quickest way to bond a person out.

The negative to this bond is that you must pay a 12% fee to the bondsman that is non refundable.

Finally, with respect to the setting of bonds, understand that whichever type of bond you use, there will be a processing fee of approximately $40 payable to the sheriff. Also, Louisiana law prohibits an attorney from signing, paying or posting a bond.