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New book gives college students crash course on law

Sylvia Adcock//September 1, 2010

New book gives college students crash course on law

Sylvia Adcock//September 1, 2010

By SYLVIA ADCOCK, Staff Writer

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Wilson Parker, a constitutional law expert at Wake Forest University’s School of Law, has just published a law book that doesn’t cite any cases. But it has plenty of good advice.

With headings such as “Pay Attention!” Parker lays out everything a college student might need to know about avoiding legal problems in Ignorance is No Defense: A College Student’s Guide to N.C. Law.

The book, co-authored by J. Tom Morgan, a former district attorney in DeKalb County, Ga., contains 10 sections and 31 chapters that cover everything from alcohol violations to date rape to landlord/tenant issues.

On the first page, under “Did You Know…?” the authors point out the right to refuse a police officer’s request to search a car or book bag.

“People don’t realize you can say no,” Parker said.

Parker said he finds that college students often know little about the legal implications of their actions. “I’ve come across the fact that even law students, who are college graduates, will come to school almost completely ignorant of the law,” he said.

“Part of the problem is that kids think they are in some kind of bubble,” he said, “as though rules outside campus don’t apply on campus. That same kind of thinking gets them into trouble when they leave campus, thinking as if they will get a free pass because they are college students. They won’t.”

The book, a paperback published by Westchester Legal Press, came about after Parker was approached by Morgan, who had published a similar book based on Georgia law for teenagers. With so many universities in North Carolina, they decided college students would make a perfect audience.

  Parker got many of the real-life scenarios in the book from his children’s friends. “They’d say, ‘Oh, you’re a lawyer, what about this?’ Or, ‘I have a friend.’ Virtually all of the examples come from real life.”

The book is peppered with examples such as this one: A college junior asks his 15-year-old sibling to deliver an ounce of marijuana for him. The college student is guilty of a felony, not a misdemeanor, for asking a minor to deliver the drug.

Parker said he thinks one of the most important sections in the book may be the one on fake IDs. Few students know that while using a fake ID is only a misdemeanor, using another person’s ID is a felony.

In another of the book’s examples, a freshman borrows a 21-year-old student’s ID and uses it to get into bars. The bouncer at one bar notices the picture and calls the cops. The freshman can be charged with a felony for knowingly possessing the authentic identification of another person to obtain something of value.

The penalties for using another person’s ID have increased since 9/11, Parker said.

Parker is the father of three college graduates, one of whom is still in school, pursuing a Ph.D. at the University of Chicago.

“I can’t tell him anything,” he said in a typical parental lament.

The book carries an endorsement by Mecklenburg County District Attorney Peter Gilchrist, who wrote a blurb for the back jacket noting that he is constantly dealing with offenses involving students that result in criminal records that will follow them for the rest of their lives.

“This book should be in the hands of every college student in North Carolina and in every high school library as well,” Gilchrist wrote.

Ignorance is No Defense is available at and the Wake Forest University bookstore. Parker says he hopes for distribution at more college campuses.

Parker and Morgan also have practical advice for the young person who ends up in court. Don’t take your cell phone into the courtroom. No ball caps. Don’t chew gum.

And, the book points out, nothing can substitute for an attorney’s advice: “If you have a question regarding whether an act is a criminal, you should consult an experienced criminal lawyer.”



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