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Ohio Legal Issues Blog

It's Just a "Drinking Ticket" Right?

Wrong. Students and parents are often under the unfortunate misconception that criminal citations for underage drinking are like speeding tickets: you admit responsibility, you pay the "ticket" online, and you go about your business consequence-free...but this could not be further from the truth!

In Ohio, consumption or possession (even constructive possession) of alcohol while underage is a Misdemeanor of the First Degree-that's the highest level misdemeanor in Ohio, and it carries with it a maximum possible penalty of up to 180 days in jail and up to a $ 1,000 fine (and can create further headaches for you down the line). That means that you cannot just pay-out your citation as if it were a speeding ticket, nor should you just plead guilty given the potential consequences! Furthermore, if you commit your offense near a college that you attend, you could also be staring down the barrel of a University Discipline Hearing.


Sexual Harassment Is Never Appropriate

In recent weeks, the issue of sexual harassment has been in the forefront of local and national news. Many well-known individuals have lost their jobs. Others probably should have or likely will in the weeks and months to come. At Rittgers & Rittgers, we applaud the men and women who have come forward to help expose those who abuse their power and behave inappropriately in the workplace. Importantly, we also want those who may be fearful of coming forward to report similar misconduct to know that we are here to help you through the process and to protect your rights.

In Ohio, both men and women can be victims of sexual harassment. Such harassment can take two forms. The first is called Quid Pro Quo Harassment. This is harassment that is directly tied to the denial of an economic benefit. The classic (but all too common and unfortunate) example of this is a boss who says he will not promote (or even consider promoting) a young employee unless she sleeps with him. This type of conduct is not only morally reprehensible, but also illegal.

Do I Have Rights As A Grandparent?

In certain circumstances, grandparents do have legal rights in Ohio to custody or grandparent visitation.

A grandparent may file a complaint or petition for custody in certain circumstances and the Court will grant the petition if it can be proven that both parents are unfit or unsuitable to parent the child. This is becoming more and more prevalent with the drug epidemic in Ohio. In some cases, Children's Services is involved in a dependency, neglect, or abuse case and the grandparent can intervene into the case with permission of the Court and request the Court to grant them custody of the child. In other cases, the grandparents can simply file a petition or motion with the court to grant custody of the child to them. If the grandparents prove to the Court that both parents are unfit or unsuitable, then the Court needs to determine that it is in the best interests of the minor child that the Court grant custody to the grandparents. 

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.


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. 

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