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Attorney talks rights at UPUA's town hall meeting

By Jessica Tully and Christina Gallagher
December 7, 2010
Daily Collegian

State College attorney Andrew Shubin said Centre County police officers are too concerned with generating a high number of student arrests for low-level offenses at the University Park Undergraduate Association-sponsored town hall meeting Monday night.

“What the students don’t understand is that Penn State is not Pittsburgh or Philadelphia. State College is like Mississippi — the prosecutors, defense attorneys and jurors are very conservative,” Shubin said.

Shubin, a guest attorney at the meeting, said that if he was defending a client in a Philadelphia county, the first thing that he would tell the judge is that his client is a student at Penn State because it is highly recognized institution.

But he said if he were representing a student in Centre County, it would not matter that the student attended Penn State because his client’s background would be nearly identical to that of 40,000 other students.

Shubin said that it is important for students to realize that State College is a school zone, so low-level offenses, such as drinking and selling marijuana, are treated much more harshly. If his client lived in Philadelphia and was caught selling a quarter pound of marijuana, he would get a misdemeanor charge at the most, Shubin said. If his client was caught selling the illegal substance in State College, he would most likely receive a two to four year mandatory prison sentence.

“I hate that I am paying taxes to incarcerate engineering majors,” Shubin said.

Shubin said he stresses the importance of students knowing their rights, which are the same for all citizens regardless of age. He also offered three rules for interacting with the police when questioned by authorities.

“Never give a statement to a police officer if you are the suspect of a crime. The answer to every question after you give your name should be lawyer, attorney or counselor. Always be cooperative with the police officer — anything you say will be used against you,” he said.

UPUA President Christian Ragland said it is important that students do not misinterpret Shubin’s advice.

“We should still set the precedent that wrong is wrong, Ragland (senior-political science) said. “Students should know their rights, but above all, they shouldn’t do wrong.”

Shubin said times have changed since he and parents of Penn State students were in college.

“We’re living in a totally different world now — but I’m not convinced that it is a better world, Shubin said. “The government can put so much destruction in your life when we did the same thing when we were younger and grew up to be law-abiding citizens.”

UPUA Programming Committee Chairwoman Ali Cook said she believes students will find Shubin’s advice helpful.

“I think he provided a valuable service for students and I don’t think he encouraged students to engage in illegal activities,” Cook (sophomore-finance and economics) said.

Ragland also discussed the issue of student safety and handed out surveys to collect data on students’ feelings regarding campus safety. The surveys are also available online at UPUA’s website for completion.