Sunday, May 6, 2012

Attorneys talk turning 18 with EVHS students

Less than a month from graduation, many seniors at Eastern View High School are already 18. It's an age that's glorified in the nation, when independence is celebrated. But local lawyers warned students that turning 18 can also have other consequences.

Friday, attorneys spoke to students at Eastern View about turning 18 and the differences they may encounter in the legal system during the annual Law Day presentation.

Commonwealth's Attorney Paul Walther and deputy Commonwealth's Attorney Dale Durrer spoke a little about the law process before taking questions from students in Brad Miller's government class.

A decades-old nationwide program, the idea behind Law Day is to give students a first-hand opportunity to meet with legal professionals from the community.

"The biggest thing, a lot of these kids have questions on what their rights are," Miller said. "The government teachers can only cover so much, and this is an awesome opportunity to get the community lawyers, who know it to a T, to answer those questions."

Durrer spoke to the students about several different topics, including defining what possession is. It's a question, he said, that is often asked by youth, especially when it comes to searches done on cars.

"(It's important) To explain their rights and responsibilities when they turn 18, because their world vastly changes once they turn 18," Durrer said. "It's important to the bar to come out and explain that difference to them."

Durrer explained actual possession, holding a "You're 18" flyer in his hands.

"I'm actually possessing this," he explained, "you can testify you saw Dale Durrer holding this in his left hand."

That is more concrete than constructive possession, where two people may be in a car and the flyer would be in the center consol. No one is actually holding the flyer to possess it, but it is in the car. It's more of a gray area.

Durrer and Walther also answered questions from students about alcohol, with one of them wondering if it was legal for them to drink if their friend's parents let them.

"I'm not going to comment on parenting skills," Durrer said, but pointed out the parents could be charged with aiding the delinquency of a minor.

Walther said he's always surprised by the questions the students ask as they keep changing.

"The years that I've done it, I've enjoyed it," Walther said. "It's a chance to explain to them what becoming an adult is. It's a good chance for them to ask questions and give honest answers to them."

One female student asked what gave the town police officer "the right to shoot the lady in town," referring to the Feb. 9 shooting death of Pat Cook at the hands of a town police officer.

"We can't comment on that," Walther said. "It's being handled by a special prosecutor and a special grand jury and that is private at the moment."

Other questions were more light-hearted, including a young lady who wanted to know if driving barefoot was illegal in Virginia.

"I'm not aware that it is," Durrer said with a laugh.

Durrer, Walther and other attorneys will present Law Day to Culpeper County High School students May 11.

By Jeff Say, Culpeper Star-Exponent

Source: The Culpeper Star Exponent

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