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Ohio Legal Issues Blog

Drinking (Underage) With Parents: To Do, Or Not To do

Homecoming, Parents' Weekend, and various fraternity & sorority events are a prime opportunity for parents to spend quality time with their college student in the student's natural environment. This sometimes includes parent-student underage drinking. Two important questions emerge:

(1) Is this legal? Answer: Probably

Under Ohio law, an individual under the age of 21 can possess, consume, and even be "under the influence of" alcohol if supervised by a parent or legal guardian. However, the exception does not apply to purchasing alcohol, meaning an underage person can be prosecuted for say buying a beer at a bar even if the underage person is with a parent. Furthermore, if the underage person leaves his or her parent and is found elsewhere "under the influence" of alcohol, it is fairly (although not entirely) certain that the underage person may be prosecuted; 

But, I'm 21...

Miami University's Code of Student Conduct ("the Code") requires that a student with two violations for Intoxication (commonly referred to as a "105A violation"), within a two-year period, must be suspended for at least a semester. Most students think that this 2-strike policy doesn't apply to them once they turn 21-because they are now legally allowed to drink alcohol.

Wrong. 

Celebrating The Holidays During Divorce

When going through a divorce, the holidays are oftentimes difficult. Here are a few tips to make things go more smoothly.

It is important to start planning for the holidays ahead of time. Look at your court orders to determine if there is a schedule in place. When you plan ahead, if there is no schedule, you will have time to work with your ex spouse, attorney, and the court, if needed, to make a schedule. First, talk to your spouse/ex spouse about options and try to work out a schedule that is best for the children. 

Close, But No Cigar (Or Alcohol)

If I'm not holding it, can I still get in trouble for it?

Quick Answer: Yes. Under the legal doctrine of constructive possession "when a person knowingly exercise[s] dominion and control over an object, even though the object may not be within the person's immediate physical possession," the person can be found to be "possessing" alcohol, drugs, or other potentially illegal items. Even if the police do not directly see you exercising this "dominion or control" (meaning even if they do not see you holding the item) they can infer it from circumstantial evidence (where you are, what you are doing).1

Imagine this scenario: you are out at a bar with friends, all of whom are underage. You all are sitting around a table, and there is a cup of beer in the middle of the table. The police approach; who can be charged with possession of the beer? Potentially everyone at the table, because each person could be in constructive possession of the beer given each person's location around the table and presence at the bar. This is especially true if one or more members of the group possess a Fake ID, or possess inaccurate over/under-21-year-old markings on their hands or wrists, as this could be viewed as additional circumstantial evidence of possession. Similarly, as I write this blog post I'm not holding my office phone (located about a foot away from me), but I would likely be found to be in constructive possession of it nonetheless.

What Happens When Both Drivers Are At Fault For A Car Crash?

Ohio's Comparative Fault Law

Under Ohio law, what happens when a person injured in a car crash is also at fault partially for that crash? Can the partially at fault injured person recover money from the other driver for his or her injuries? Like most good attorney-answers, it depends.

Until 1980, if the injured person was at fault to any degree, the injured person could not recover any damages from the other driver. This strict rule is known as the contributory negligence rule. It is no longer the law in most states and is perceived by many as old-fashioned, unreasonable, and unfair.

The Three Things Every New Business Needs To Know

In Ohio, business entities like limited liability companies and corporations provide business owners with protection from personal liability. This protection ensures that a claim made against one's business does not jeopardize their interest in their personal home or car. In order to maintain this personal protection, though, a new business must ensure they follow three basic principles:

When You are Ready to Leave, Leave Safely

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. If you are in an abusive relationship - be it physically, emotionally, mentally or even financially abusive, and have thought about getting out of that relationship, make sure you take steps to prepare before you make that final step. Remember that not all abuse takes the form of red marks and bruises. Emotional and mental abuse can be just as painful. The period of breaking off a relationship and separation can be the most dangerous for an abused party. Last year, between July 1, 2016 and June 30, 2017, there were 115 domestic violence fatalities in Ohio. There were children present at the scene in 23% of those cases. Well laid plans may prevent some such tragedies.

Developing a plan of action can be difficult. Abusers are very controlling. Over time they will cut off their victims from other relationships including friends and family so that the spouse is the only friend and family the victim has left. Reach out. People will help. A parent of a child's friend, a family member, an acquaintance from church - people will help. Someone needs to know your plan. While you may think your spouse has everyone fooled, that likely is not so. If you need help developing a plan, the National Abuse Hotline (see number below) will help you in developing your plan. 

So I Made it Through My University Discipline Hearing - All is Well Now, Right?

Wrong --- IF your discipline was related to a criminal charge that counts as a "1219 offense" in Ohio. Under Ohio law, if you are convicted of, or plead guilty to, a so-called 1219 offense that occurred on or about campus, you will be subject to a mandatory, state-wide suspension for a minimum term of one year. That's right: mandatory, state-wide, and for a minimum of one year.

So what does this mean? It means that the interrelationship between your criminal case and university discipline case is important, and must be well coordinated. For example, you could successfully convince university officials not to suspend you for a given code infraction, but then plead guilty or be convicted of a 1219 offense that results in that same university sending you a letter indicating that you have been suspended state wide. Alternatively, you could have the greatest criminal lawyer in the world negotiate your case down-from, say, assault to disorderly conduct-only to have that very same lawyer botch the university discipline hearing, resulting in a suspension nonetheless. None of these matters should be handled in isolation. 

Love and Honor...your right to counsel

Thanks to Hollywood, most Americans have heard the police say the phrase "you have a right to an attorney..." as a suspect is being arrested on-screen. That referenced right to counsel in a criminal proceeding is a constitutionally guaranteed right under the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution.

While the right to have an attorney present in court is fairly well known, what most Miami University students aren't aware of is that they are also entitled to have counsel present at university disciplinary hearings. It's not a "right to counsel" in the same way that the Constitution provides for accused citizens; but, it is an important that Miami students, and their families, understand that an accused student is entitled to have counsel present at a disciplinary hearing. 

Can a Non-Custodial Parent Have Access to Their Child's Records?

You have made it through the exhausting process of negotiating the custody of your kids. You have visitation which is what you believe is in your children's best interest and you go to pick them up from daycare and you go up to the front desk and request to see their daily attendance records only to be told that your ex-wife has said that you are not allowed to see any records because she has sole custody. What do you do?

Fear not, under Ohio law, even parents with visitation and not shared parenting, have equal access to all records: medical, education, day care, etc., under the law. Unfortunately, this is a common misconception by many daycare centers and schools that may require a letter from your attorney to clear up and confusion. First, check your court paperwork. There may be language in the Separation Agreement to provide your child(ren)'s care giver. Often plans include provisions for access to records where the keeper of the records (the daycare center, medical office, or school) can be held in contempt of court if they do not provide the records requested. However, it is never to a good idea to threaten the caregiver or doctor of your child with contempt of court. First, explain that you have equal rights to the records and you simply want to see the records and your children. Second, if that does not work, write a letter or have your attorney do so. This non-confrontational explanation of the law is usually successful. The absolute last resort is filing a contempt of court action against your child(ren)'s provider. If you have been happy with the daycare provider or pediatrician in the past, you certainly do not want to lose those services over a contempt of court action so try every route possible before the route of filing a court action. 

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