Lawyer Gal's Blog

A Young Lawyer's Perspective

A primer on underage drinking

There is a pervasive normative argument that drinking underage should be legal.  While this debate is venerable, it should not shade the fact that underage drinking is illegal.  And is it a misdemeanor 1, which is on par with a DUI and domestic violence.  It will cost well over $500, plus attorney fees.  With this in mind, here is some background.

-If a cop goes up to a person he suspects of underage drinking and asks the suspect for identification, the suspect has every right to decline.  Why? Simple due process principle: you don’t have to self-incriminate.  When age is an element of an offense, you don’t have to disclose it.

-The cop will likely argue that he’s gonna hit you with failure to disclose. Yes, failure to disclose if suspected of a crime is a crime itself in Ohio per R.C 2921.29(a) IF in a public place.  [So a cop comes to a house party – definitely no way he can ask for ID]. But even if an underager is in public, the statute has an exception for age as an element:

“It is not a violation of this section to refuse to answer a question that would reveal a person’s age or date of birth if age is an element of the crime that the person is suspected of committing.”

Note, though, that the exception would still require you to give your name.  Giving a false name is very bad – will get hit with another charge.

-Let’s say a person is on probation or is in a diversion program for a previous underage drinking.  And lets say that he or she has pictures on facebook holding a beer…yep, you can be hit with a probation violation. Happens all the time.

-This one is fundamental to all offenses, not just underage drinking:  if a cop asks you how much you’ve drank, and you are underage, don’t incriminate yourself.  The state has to prove you committed the offense – don’t prove it for them by talking.  Shut up, shut up, shut up!

-Lastly, a cop might tell you that you are obstructing official business or something along those lines.  I swear, this is taught as a catch all in the police academy.  But caselaw clearly states that obstructing business requires an affirmative act.  You can’t obstruct business if you do nothing [i.e, not furnishing your identification].

I hope you found this primer to be informative.  Btw, this is not to be misconstrued as the creation of atty-client relationship.  I’m just pointing out general law.



May 9, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The toothless crossing guard lady at Eastwoods: why i got into law

Anyone that was a swimmer for Hudson Explorers knows about Toothless Crossing Guard Lady.  Hudson swimmers, you see, trained not at the high school, but at Eastwoods Elementary School.  Everyday after school, we’d zoom over.  We disobeyed every conceivable traffic law in our rush to not only get to the best snacks awaiting us in the pool lobby, but also to arrive before Toothless Crossing Guard Lady [herein referred to as Toothless] appeared.  You see, Eastwoods has some rule that no vehicles besides buses can enter the parking lot from 3-3:15.  If a swimmer arrived at 3:01, Toothless threw her rather rotund body in the line of your car, waiving her meager Stop sign as if it meant anything to teenagers.

Many a brave soul tried to pass her…with various techniques, including hit the gas, distraction, and pleading.  None worked…and the poor swimmer would be forced to drive 2 miles out of their way to reach the school and the butterfly set awaiting them for tardiness.  Although I was a fairly adept butterflier, there came a point where I decided to attempt a new technique…the non-turn signal one.  I drove along, never giving eye contact to her, then suddenly did a hard right into the lot.  She never saw it coming.  And then, my comrades in arms followed suit, zooming by her as she was distracted by me.  All control was lost for her on that day – which was, for Toothless, going to eat away at her soul. Otherwise, she would not have taken my license plate number [had she been sane].

That evening, when the Hudson Police officer arrived at my home, my mother was quite shocked that he asked for me.  I came out to the deck and was swiftly confronted by hostility.  He rattled off a statute, 6 month in jail warning, and hefty fines.  Looking back, I realize that he was full of threats but nothing more.  At the time, all I knew was…well, I knew nothing if not how to thwart authority.  You see, I was decidedly pro-anarchy when it came to adult figureheads.  I had the amazing ability to pretend I was doing as told..but in reality, I rarely did.

Anyway, I suppose the officer was not prepared for my counter-diatribe in which I informed him that he was on private property, that I was innocent until proven guilty, and besides, where was he when I allegedly committed the aforementioned offense? [My poor mom was horrified by my defiance.]  Nonetheless, he recognized a kernel of truth when he saw it.  The fact was, he had nothing to go on legally.  And his threats fell on deaf ears.

The moment he left, I felt triumph.  I stood up to authority – albeit obnoxiously.  I realized that if I knew more about the law, I could confront cops on a weekly, if not daily, basis. [And yes, my mom is still frequently horrified by my “disrespect” for law enforcement.]

Now, I look back on Toothless not as a completely insane, paranoid fanatic, but as the impetus that allowed me to enter a really neat profession.  For that, Toothless, I thank you.

May 9, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment