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Legal Advice for Students from Criminal Defense Lawyer Kim T. Stephens

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Legal Advice for Students:

Stephens & Brown, Athens Georgia’s premier DUI and criminal defense law firm, welcomes University of Georgia, University of North Georgia, Athens Technical College, and Piedmont College students back to Athens. The fall is an exciting time in Athens, with students returning to the city, and football season just around the corner. Former Bulldog All-American and criminal defense attorney Kim Stephens encourages incoming students to study, work hard, have fun, and be careful to avoid being arrested and forever branded as a criminal.

Remember, if you are charged with a crime or asked to meet with school administrators about alleged crimes, academic dishonesty, or other violations of your school’s Honor Code, it is essential that you hire an attorney who can provide you with a powerful defense and protect your future.  Kim Stephens defends students every day against false or inflated accusations, winning in court, and preventing incidents from impacting students’ education and lives beyond college.

Students should be aware of the following state laws and local ordinances:

State laws and local ordinances:

  1. Athens has an open container ordinance, meaning it is illegal to consume alcoholic beverages outside in public spaces, even just outside of some bars and restaurants. The local police enforce the open container law year round, even on football game days on and off campus.
  2. Athens has a noise ordinance and excessive noise at any residence may result in police coming to your residence and attempting to question everyone who is there. If the police show up at your home because of a noise complaint, have someone who has not been drinking and/or is over 21 years of age meet the officers at the door and, above all else, be polite, cooperate and turn the noise down, i.e. lower the decibel level.
  3. Littering violates state law and local ordinances and makes the community an uglier place. Instead of dropping cans, bottles or other trash on the ground or throwing them out the car window, pick up any trash you see and put it in the closest recycle or trash bin. You will feel good about yourself and will avoid unnecessary attention from the police.
  4. If you drink alcohol and are under the age of twenty-one, you may be charged with Underage Possession of Alcohol, i.e. MIP, even if the police don’t perform any test to determine if you have been drinking. Local police departments in Athens recently changed their policy of arresting first time underage drinkers and branding them as criminals; but, the penalties and sentences in MIP cases can still be unduly harsh and burdensome and can result in you having a criminal record.  Please don’t trust your friend’s expert advice just because he or she already had an MIP in Athens or somewhere else. You should always consult with an attorney before you go to court.
  5. If you are under the age of twenty-one and drive any vehicle after consuming alcoholic beverages, you may be charged with DUI. Even if you are lucky enough to avoid a DUI charge, your driver’s license would likely be suspended if you are charged with MIP while driving.  Don’t put yourself or others at risk.  Walk (preferably with a friend so that you won’t be a good candidate for being robbed or mugged), call a sober friend, have a designated driver, take a cab, or let Uber help you.
  6. If you are over the age of twenty-one and drive a vehicle (including bicycles, scooters, Segways, golf carts, horses, or any moving vehicle) with a blood alcohol level of .08, you will be charged with DUI in Athens. While television, radio and billboard advertisements call a DUI a $10,000.00 mistake, I know of a DUI conviction costing a person more than $200,000.00 because he lost his job, lost his company car, couldn’t find other work for over a year, almost lost his home, and suffered the more typical DUI   I’ve also seen commercial drivers lose their licenses for a year and, for a second DUI, permanently lose their CDL, thus taking away their ability to work.  These cases demonstrate the severe impact a DUI can have whether you are a college student or a working adult.
  7. If you drive a vehicle improperly (speeding, failure to maintain lane, etc.) after consuming alcohol or using drugs, you may be charged with DUI less safe even if you refuse the breath or blood test. Often police officers will request that you take “a few tests” to determine if you are impaired.  You are not required to take these field sobriety tests.  Understand that police officers use the test to gather evidence against you, not to help you.  So, in almost every circumstance, you should refuse to do field sobriety tests at the scene of your stop.

2016 Update: Recent Georgia and United States Supreme Court cases have called into question the legality of blood tests to determine DUIs without a valid search warrant.

2017 Update: Georgia law has been changed to allow a driver charged with DUI to elect to have an ignition interlock device placed on his or her car for 12 months to avoid a license suspension on a first DUI.  Whether to accept this option or ask for an administrative hearing is a tricky question that should only be made after consulting an attorney.  For more information, please see our blog titled, DUI Attorney Kim T. Stephens on New Georgia DUI Law 2017.

  1. If you are involved in a motor vehicle accident after consuming alcohol or drugs, you may be charged with crimes ranging from misdemeanor reckless driving to felony vehicular homicide. A conviction for vehicular homicide almost always results in many years of prison time though Stephens & Brown has successfully kept a person out of jail who caused the death of two elderly people after smoking marijuana.  Just this year, attorney Kim T. Stephens successfully kept a client out of prison on a vehicular homicide charge resulting from a horrible wreck that killed the client’s husband.  In this case, the client had 2 previous DUIs, 3 previous felony drug convictions, and drugs in her system at the time of the wreck.  Don’t take a chance of killing someone, ruining your life, and devastating the lives of family members for you and the person you might injure or kill.
  2. If you buy alcohol and provide it to someone under the age of twenty-one, you can be charged with providing alcohol to a minor. In addition to criminal sanctions, your driver’s license will be suspended if you are convicted of providing alcohol to a minor.
  3. If you have sex with an individual under the influence of alcohol or drugs, you can be charged with rape, aggravated sexual battery, sexual battery, and other serious criminal charges, even if you were also intoxicated. Even more worrisome, students, particularly male students, are being recommended for expulsion by UGA and other colleges and universities based upon accusations of sexual misconduct where both students involved were under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time, WITHOUT A HEARING to determine the truth of the accusation.

Academic Concerns:

While attending school in Athens, it is important to adhere to your college’s policies on academic honesty, appropriate behavior, and campus safety. Defense attorney, Kim Stephens, often represents students involved in student conduct hearings at UGA, and based on his years of experience with the student judiciary process, he advises incoming freshman and returning students to be particularly aware of the following:

  1. Any knife having a blade over two inches—even a small fishing knife—is considered a weapon per state law and University of Georgia regulations and is not allowed on campus, including in the dorms. If you are found to be in possession of such a knife, you will likely be charged with a felony.
  2. Plagiarism (using someone else’s ideas or words without proper citations) is considered a serious offense at the college level and can result in suspension or expulsion.
  3. Sharing test information or prior tests is considered academic dishonesty and can result in suspension or expulsion.
  4. If you are charged with a crime while attending college, and the college is made aware of the charge, they will hold a conduct hearing. The student judiciary has the power to suspend or expel you from the university EVEN IF the charges are dismissed or disproved.

Kim Stephens is familiar with the inner workings of the University of Georgia’s Offices of Student Conduct, Title IX, and Academic Dishonesty and provides students with professional advice, often enabling them to continue their studies at the university even after facing charges by the student judiciary. In multiple cases, Kim Stephens has successfully filed for a petition for a temporary protective order and injunction to prevent students charged with serious crimes (which are later disproven and dismissed) from being expelled.  It is critical that students who find themselves facing a student conduct hearing seek professional advice to protect their future.

 

IF YOU HAVE BEEN CHARGED WITH A CRIME OR ARE FACING A STUDENT JUDICIARY HEARING, CALL KIM STEPHENS TODAY FOR PROFESSIONAL ADVICE AND A POWERFUL DEFENSE. 706.548.3933

 

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