50 South Court Street Suite D Athens, OH 45701  : 740-594-8093            

Winter Break Housing Tips

December 5th, 2013 Posted in Featured, Housing Issues, News and Updates

For many Ohio University students, the only thing on their minds after completing that last final exam of the semester is to get out of Athens for a much-needed winter break.  The Center for Student Legal Services would like to take this opportunity to remind students who intend to vacate their rental property for long periods of time over the Winter Break of the need to make preparations before their departure.

Students should read the terms of their lease for any specific provisions regarding temperature control in the winter months and be sure to comply with the lease.  In the absence of a specific lease provision, students should set the thermostat at a temperature that will be sure to keep the pipes from freezing. This temperature will vary depending on the condition of your rental property and the temperature outside.  We recommend setting the thermostat on at least 60 degrees to ensure that pipes do not freeze; however, this temperature could be lower for a newer, well insulated rental unit.  Students should also keep in mind that long absences and low temperatures can lead to musty or moldy conditions.

    Students should also read the terms of their lease and determine if they are required to give notice to their landlord of an extended absence.  We  recommend that all students notify their landlord, in writing, of their intention to be absent from their rental property over the winter break and indicate the time period, their home address and telephone number.  In addition, we recommend that students include in this notice any problems with the property that might make temperature control more difficult, such as a broken window, and request the landlord to check on their property if weather conditions become severe.

    According to Ohio law, a tenant is required to keep their dwelling unit safe and sanitary. Students should be sure to dispose of all garbage and properly store remaining food items before vacating their rental unit in order to deter insects and rodents.

     An empty home for an extended period of time can also increase the risk of criminal activity. We encourage students to remove valuable items from their rental properties.  In addition, we encourage students to temporarily stop their mail and consider putting a few lights in the home on timers in order to give the appearance that the home is occupied to deter criminal activity.

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What’s a Girl to do?

November 25th, 2013 Posted in Uncategorized

We’ve all seen the intoxicated students heading home after a late night endurance contest at the uptown bars. The traditional warning passed down to students has been to walk home with a friend so that the police will not stop you and charge you with “disorderly conduct.” But what if you are female and your friend is male?

        Throughout the semester we have encountered reports of police engaging in protective stops to determine if a woman knows her male companion and comprehends the situation. For the underage drinker, this situation is complicated by the fact that being stopped for anything will likely result in a charge for being “underage under the influence of alcohol,” a charge which is considerably more serious than “disorderly conduct.”

       The drinker’s dilemma is further exacerbated by the fact that the female student is often given the choice of contacting a female friend to escort her home instead of the guy she is with or go to jail—even when the male is her boyfriend.

       The motive behind the officer’s demand may be a sincere attempt to protect women from victimization and it is not our recommendation that women feel apprehensive of officers who are trying to assist them. However, it seems ironic that a female student can suffer the embarrassment of jail and the risks associated with having her criminal record posted on the Internet because a police officer responds to the mere presence of her male companions with a one-size-fits-all solution.

       What’s a girl to do when the company of even the most thoughtfully chosen male companion can be misinterpreted as a “cry for help,” resulting in unanticipated legal consequences for the conscientious female? In light of this police approach to the chosen escorts of female students, it would be wise to recommend that women consider calling a female friend to escort them home from the bars. While this double-standard is admittedly unfair, keeping your female roommate or friend on speed-dial during your night out may be safer than dealing with the potential legal consequences of mistaken perception.

Beware of Furnishing Alcohol

November 12th, 2013 Posted in Criminal Issues, Featured, News and Updates

Imagine being arrested in the Kroger parking lot, in front of your friends, for furnishing alcohol. Yes, it would be an embarrassing, and potentially expensive experience; And yes, it can happen to you.

    In their efforts to eradicate the problem of underage drinking, Ohio undercover police officers will often “stake out” carry-outs or grocery stores that sell liquor. Frequently, they will see a car full of students pull into the parking lot and one student will go inside the store and purchase a large amount of alcohol. The agents, who may be waiting in their own unmarked cars, will watch to see whether any money is exchanged, either before the student enters the store or after he or she returns to the car.    They may approach the car as it is parked to hear whether amounts or types of alcohol are being discussed by the passengers. If several students enter the store, they may follow them in to see what transpires.

   Eventually, the agents hope to gain enough evidence to conduct a “Terry Stop,” which allows them to begin questioning the suspects. Since “youthful appearance by itself” is not enough to justify the intrusion of police, which might violate a citizen’s Fourth Amendment right to be left alone, the officers are looking for either “furtive behavior” or signs that alcohol is being purchased for underage persons.   They might even follow the vehicle around town waiting for the purchaser to be dropped off without the alcohol or for the passengers to hide the contents in their back packs. But, rest assured, that when the police finally do swoop down upon the unsuspecting students, the game is hardly over.

    Merely seeing one student purchase alcohol and place it in a car with passengers is not enough to establish that it has been “furnished” or purchased for under-aged persons. The scenario requires a confession. First the badges are shown, then the participants are quickly separated and advised that they have the right to remain silent, but that unless they cooperate with the police—or if they are caught lying, they may be charged with “obstruction,” or taken to jail. Any initial denials are repeatedly disregarded by the interrogators, who seem to grow angry as the students begin “to sweat.” Eventually the agents will inform them that their friends have confessed and the only way to avoid serving time will be to quit lying. Most confessions are made at this point. The criminal charges are then issued. The “purchaser” faces a minimum $500 fine for “furnishing alcohol.” The others will be charged with “contributing money for the purchase of alcohol,” and may do the court’s diversion program which requires money, community service and completion of a class. Only then, will the charge then dismissed.

  So to those college students who think that the drinking law is a joke, be assured that the police take it seriously. Through surveillance and intimidation they will try to convict you even though you and your friends could easily have beaten the charges by exercising your Fifth Amendment right to remain silent. Fishermen know that you can’t catch a fish unless it opens its mouth.

During Halloween Students Are Not Invincible

October 24th, 2013 Posted in Criminal Issues, Featured, News and Updates

In some ways, Halloween in Athens is like being in Vegas. Both have a lot of costumes and glitter, and both have a lot of losers. This year make sure that your costume doesn’t change into jail bird orange at the stroke of midnight by remembering a few basic precautions.

Halloween in Athens has evolved from a rowdy, “unlawful” seizure of Court Street by thousands of celebrants to a sanctioned “street party” offering bandstands, food vendors, and tee-shirts.  As long as you don’t make a fool of yourself, engage in violence, or violate the law blatantly by urinating or carrying an open beer in public, you will likely have a great night. However, there are some important things to keep in mind if you want to have a fun and stress-free experience.

The bars will charge covers and lines will be endless – seats will be treasured and bathrooms will be full.  The police, of course will be everywhere—or almost. There will be roadblocks into Athens, with checkpoints for drugs, speeders or intoxicated drivers. In town, undercover officers will prowl Mill Street and watch the carry-outs, from their surveillance spots, stopping those groups where money or beer is passed. Quick to separate suspects and encourage confessions with threats of jail, the “under-covers” will easily score the most arrests for the night.

So what words of advice can a jaded defense attorney give the reader? Be Polite.  If stopped by an officer, give only your name and address. Don’t answer other questions without your attorney (you can’t catch a fish unless it opens its mouth). Don’t argue with the police, particularly if you are told to move on or to leave. Travel with your friends. Don’t urinate in the alleys. Don’t try to run if you are told to stop. Always talk to a lawyer before pleading guilty. And, last but not least, no, you are not invincible—even if you have a Superman costume.

 

 

A Little Ganja Will Get You

October 16th, 2013 Posted in Criminal Issues, Featured, News and Updates

The flood of freshman busted for possession of marijuana in dorms, or on the bike path and golf course, slowed to a trickle last week as even the most hopeless of stoners became aware that Athens isn’t Amsterdam. The police are everywhere these days and nights, and the sweet smell of “stinky weed” in the dorm serves as a fragrant invitation to be busted even if you haven’t lit up.

Even if an attorney is able to get the prosecutor to amend the pot charge to a disorderly conduct, to avoid a driver’s license suspension, or impairment of federal financial aid or scholarships, you may find that you will not be eligible for the court’s diversion program in the future if you have new underage alcohol charges. And, of course, a possession of marijuana charge will result in charges being filed against you in the Ohio University Office of Community Standards (formerly “Judiciaries”), where you will most likely be assessed fines, community service hours, and put on probation for a minimum of six months. So watch what you’re holding and where you’re hanging,  save yourself the $254 in fines and court costs, as well as the Community Standards sanctions, that a little ganja will get you.

CSLS Parent Newsletter

September 5th, 2013 Posted in Featured, News and Updates, Uncategorized

Attention Parents: Would you like to be kept up-to-date with tips and information about how to protect the financial security and quality of life of your OU student?

The Center for Student Legal Services is starting a free e-newsletter for parents of OU students! Interested in signing up? Send an email to tracy@studentlegalrights.org from your preferred email account with the word “Subscribe” in the subject.

Have suggestions for the content you would like to see? Send your suggestions to tracy@studentlegalrights.org. We look forward to hearing from you!

5 Important Facts About the Center for Student Legal Services

August 9th, 2013 Posted in Featured, News and Updates

1.) The Center for Student Legal Services is staffed by licensed attorneys, not law students

We staff licensed attorneys who are here to help with diverse legal concerns, conflict mediation and notary services. Our Managing Attorney has over 30 years of experience in law and has served as the public defender in Athens. Your concern will never be handled by a law student, intern or law clerk.

2.)  The Center for Student Legal Services exists to help students with a variety of issues and concerns

The Center for Student Legal Services protects Ohio University students in matters related to identity theft, consumer fraud, landlord / tenant issues, medical and credit card debt, alcohol consumption, contract reviews, traffic violations, misdemeanors, notary services, and more.

In 2012, CSLS obtained over $56,295 in savings / benefits for students and their families in civil matters and averaged over 500 student appointments each semester.

3.) The Center for Student Legal Services is a 501(c)3 non-profit and the $12.00 semester fee supports our legal resource programming and services to students.

The $12.00 per semester fee supports two full-time attorneys and pays for our residence hall, off-campus and classroom presentations, as well as our free educational materials.

4.) The $12.00 semester fee covers all CSLS services on an unlimited basis

The $12.00 semester fee allows access to an attorney, as well as all of our supplemental services. You do not have to pay anything more to retain one of our attorneys and there is no limit on the number of times you can use our services during the semester.

5.) If the $12.00 fee is waived, you can still re-enroll in our program.

Students who are re-enrolling, and are not in the midst of a legal problem, can re-enroll online on our website: http://www.studentlegalrights.org/re-enrollment-form/ or in-person at our office. Students who wish to re-enroll and are in the midst of a current legal dispute will be subject to a one-time $25.00 consultation fee and minimal case fee.

Recommend CSLS!

June 5th, 2013 Posted in Uncategorized

Has CSLS helped you or a friend with a legal matter, such as a witheld deposit, traffic violation or misdemeanor? If so, please recommend us on our Facebook page to help us spread the word about our services! https://www.facebook.com/csls.ou

Problems with Rental Property Conditions

June 3rd, 2013 Posted in Featured, Housing Issues

If you are experiencing problems with the condition of your rental property, you must notify your landlord of the problems in writing as soon as possible.  Obtain proof that you delivered this notice and keep a copy of the letter for your records.  In addition, take pictures or video of the problem you are experiencing in case you need to prove that the problem existed.  A landlord is required to conduct the necessary repair within a reasonable time of receiving notice of the problem.  Generally, a “reasonable time” is approximately thirty (30) days unless the issue is urgent.

What if my landlord does not fix the problem after I provided written notice?

If you have provided written notice and your landlord has not taken any steps to resolve the problem within a reasonable period of time, you have the right to deposit your rent with the Athens County Municipal Court through a process known as “Rent Escrow”.

What must I do in order to be eligible to deposit my rent with the court also known as “rent escrow”?

You must do the following:

  1. Provide written notice to your landlord of the problem;
  2. Allow the landlord reasonable time (usually at least 30 days except in case of urgent repairs) to address the problem*;
  3. You must be current in your rental payments; and
  4. You must pay your rent on or before your rental due date.

*Note: If your rent is due before the expiration of 30 days, you still must pay your rent to your landlord.

If you have problems with the conditions of your rental property or need help communicating with your landlord, call our office at 740-594-8093 for help.

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Information Regarding Palmer Place Regulations

April 19th, 2013 Posted in Uncategorized

To the Students of Ohio University and the Residents of Palmer Place: It is unfortunate that the management of Palmer Place has issued a last minute set of new rules with the obvious intent of limiting the activities which will be permitted at your upcoming “Palmer Place Fest.”

Sadly, the lines between what is permitted in a civil law matter can be confused where there is the potential for criminal charges being filed.

Below are some guidelines that will hopefully help you better understand the implications of these new regulations.

1.) Although it may go against the reason you rented your apartment, a landlord does have the right to issue restrictions about the use of a common area. A landlord may also restrict the number of persons in a common area (such as on a balcony), so management does have the right to restrict access in the courtyard. Regrettably, they have the right to do this at the last minute and they have the right to charge persons who violate this rule with CRIMINAL TRESSPASSING.

2.) We believe that the restriction of the number of guests in any particular apartment may not be permissible unless there is something specific in your lease at the time of the signing which would allow for that restriction.

3.) We do not believe under any circumstances that the police, or security agents, or undercover agents have an unlimited right to enter your apartments without your permission, and any attempt by those persons to do so could result in their liability to you for civil damages. However, keep in mind that if the police witness criminal activity taking place in your apartment, they may charge you with crimes and, of course, Nuisance Party Ordinance, they may order you to shut your party down.
In summary, it looks like you may have small parties, like any other weekend, but management has effectively shut down your right to have a “fest.”

Some of you may ask if you have any remedy for this last minute and one-sided “new rule.” With that in mind, these may be some options:

1.) Sue the complex if they held out “Palmer Place Fest” as an enticement for your signing the lease.

2.) Urge future students to boycott the complex.

3.) Create a committee to work with Palmer Place management in the future to determine if there are ways to hold a fest without causing the damage that has been used to justify the last minute imposition of their rules.

REMEMBER: For your own welfare, and to avoid criminal charges, we urge that you respect the new rules, keeping in mind that you do NOT have to give consent for unlawful entry of your individual apartments. We encourage you to check our website and to follow the law and obey the orders of the police.