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Understand your legal rights

Letter to the Editor | Monday, September 1, 2008

On the evening of Friday, Aug. 29, an officer from the South Bend Police Department shut down my party. Any bystander could have predicted that it was only a matter of time before the party was broken up, as there were dozens of students on the front and back lawns enjoying beverages and each other’s company.

The fact that the police came and broke up the party was not surprising, but the nature of the officer’s visit was. Unfortunately, he felt the need to lie to me and my roommates, deny us our constitutional rights and threaten to “lock (us) up” if we questioned anything he said.

First, he told us that the ordinance that was ‘passed’ last year mandated that we buy a permit from the city before we can have a group of our friends over. Anyone who went to Notre Dame last year knows that this isn’t true, and that the ordinance did not become law; the City Council dropped the measure before holding a vote.

Second, the officer told us that the students drinking on our front lawn and porch were guilty of public intoxication because he could see us from the public sidewalk. Based on this premise, one could conclude that a student drinking inside his house is guilty of public intoxication if an officer can see him through a window from the sidewalk. When I questioned the legal qualifications of the officer’s statement, he threatened to lock me up and make sure my roommates and I were evicted. This made me feel powerless.

I was also baffled that in the 21st century, in the United States of America, an officer of the law feels that he can target students, make up laws and flagrantly oppress our constitutional rights.

The moral of the story is this: as long as students don’t know what the laws concerning drinking and partying are, the police will take advantage of our ignorance and overstep their boundaries. Take some time to figure out what your rights are so that you can use the law to help you. Hopefully, a student body better versed in local laws will lead to a more respectful police force.

In addition, the less time the police spend giving us tickets, the more time they have to combat the alarming number of robberies that off-campus students have been victim to this year.

Charles Cummings

senior

off campus

Aug. 31