As the summer comes to a close and the gridiron starts to heat up, the migration of new and returning college students to college campuses around the state is in full swing. Having practiced law for over a decade, I have learned that one thing is certain, this migration often leads to bad decisions when student's begin to unwind from the summer and begin to windup for the school year. These bad decisions lead to criminal charges which can have a lasting negative effect over a college student's life. So in an effort to help these student's avoid some of the back to school pits, we have put together a list of five topics college students need to be aware of as they return to campus.
1. Public Intoxication. This is probably the most frequent criminal offense college students are arrested for not only on their return to campus but also throughout the year. In Iowa it is illegal to be intoxicated or simulate intoxication in a public place. Iowa Code Section 123.46. A public place is defined as "any place, building, or conveyance to which the public has or is permitted access." Iowa Code Section 123.3(27). The interior of a vehicle is not a public place but a person may receive an open container ticket if drinking on a public highway. State v. Lake, 476 N.W.2d 55 (Iowa 1991). Nor are the front steps of a single-family home unless the residents of the home make them public by extending a general invitation to the public to come on the property. State v. Paye, 865 N.W.2d 1 (Iowa 2015). However, the front steps and common hallways of an apartment house are public places. State v. Booth, 670 N.W.2d 209 (Iowa 2003). One fequent misconception about a charge for public intoxication is that a driver's license suspension will be imposed to with a failing or refused breath test. Under Iowa law, a person's driver's license cannot be suspended for failing or refusing to take a breath test following an arrest for public intoxication. Second and third offenses for public intoxication carry increased fines and jail times as penalties. A person is also well advised not to use a deferred judgment in most circumstances on a public intoxication charge as those are one of only two charges in Iowa that can completely be expunged from a person's record so long as two years have passed since the conviction and there have been no other criminal convictions other than minor traffic violations. Iowa Code Section 123.46(5). Thus, you should think twice before you passout in the hallway of your apartment complex following a night of partying!!
2. Minor in Possession of Alcohol. It is illegal in Iowa for a person under twenty-one years of age to have alcohol in their possession or for an attempt to purchase alcohol. Iowa Code Section 123.47(2). It is also illegal for anyone to provide alcohol to any person who is under twenty-one. Iowa Code Section 123.47(1). However, a person under twenty-one can legally drink alcohol and can be provided alcohol "within a private home and with the knowledge, presence, and consent of the parent or guardian." Mere possession of alcohol by a person under twenty-one, constitutes a simple misdemeanor but has increasing severity of fines and/or license suspensions for second and third offenses. A person who supplies alcohol to a minor commits a serious misdmeanor. Like public intoxication charges, a minor in possessin of alcohol charge can be expunged upon the expiration of two years from the conviction date so long as there have been no other criminal convictions aside from simple misdemeanor traffic offenses.
3. Public Urination. Most cities have municipal ordinances that make it a violation to urinate in public. These offenses are generally simple misdemeanors but certainly can have a negative impact on someone's future career plans if convicted. Closely related to public urination but much more serious is the offense of indecent exposure. If convicted of indecent exposure, there is a sex offender registry requirement. Of utmost importance is whether there was actual exposure of genitalia and whether it was done with the inent to arouse sexual gratification. An unwary person may get incorrectly charged with indecent exposure when in actuality the offense is simply public unrination. That person needs to seek legal assistance immediately as the penalties for indecent exposure are life altering. So think twice before taking that streaking run across the football field during the first home game!!
4. Possession of Marijuana. As the bebate over the legalization of marijuana continues to grow, it appears that people are beginning to become more brazen and open with their use as a result of the changing attitudes over it's seriousness. Nevertheless, it is still illegal in Iowa to possess marijuana and any other controlled substances for which you do not have a prescription. Often over looked are some of the collateral consequences of a conviction for marijuana which are as follows. First and most importantly, a convication for possession of marijuana or any other drug for that matter can result in a loss of federal financial student aid. Click here for some quick facts on this subject. Second, most housing contracts, both on campus and off, provide for removal of a person caught using substances on/in the property. Third, a conviction for possession of drugs carries a mandatory six month driver's license suspension unless the person receives a deferred judgment. So remember this when 4:20 rolls around on your first saturday back to school!
5. Sexual Assault (i.e. non-consentual sexual activity). There has been a lot of discussions recently on the topic of "yes means yes" policies being adopted by colleges and universities across the nation. Click here to read more. These policies have come under attack because they require an affirmative affirmation by both parties meaning that lack of protest or resistance is insufficient for consent. So break out the consent form folks cause it looks like that's where we are headed! Although this sounds ridiculous, obtaining affirmative consent will help stave off those sexual partners who have "buyers remorse" once their hangover wears off from going to the police and will help protect you from someone who may later claim they did not consent. A practice commonly used by the police investigating these types of offenses is to have one partner (usually the female) call the other partner to "talk about what happened the other night" while the police listen in and coach the female caller to try and obtain incriminating admissions from the other partner. If you or someone you know receives this call, it is best to keep your mouth shut and seek legal counsel. Even an admission to having engaged in sexual activity can be damaging. A simple allegation that a sexual assault occurred can result in expulsion from campus housing, classes, and the issuance of a no-contact order even if criminal charges are not filed. Certainly "no means no" and "yes means yes" but its the grey area in between that gets people in trouble. So if in doubt don't bring it out!