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Many students are unaware of their rights when it comes to being pulled over, receiving a ticket or being arrested. Even if an individual has never encountered the law, it is still important to know what to expect if or when he or she becomes involved in the court system. This is particularly important when students live in a specific jurisdiction for nine months out of the year or even longer. Rights that an individual has when involved in a traffic stop, home searches, encounters with police, arrests, and alcohol related offenses are posted on this website under this link, Criminal Law or can be found on this website under its Criminal Law section. The following will provide information concerning what to expect when involved in the court system while in Laramie, WY.
Students need to be aware that there are three different courts in Laramie. The court an individual will attend typically depends on the type of crime committed and the jurisdiction the crime was committed in. In Laramie, the three courts are the Municipal Court, the Circuit Court, and the District Court. Each court has a different judge. It is important for students to know which court they will be entering and the expectations of each judge when entering his courtroom.
Judge Tony S. Lopez is the judge for Laramie's Municipal Court. The cases that are heard by Laramie's Municipal Court are cases that originate from the Laramie Police Department, other city enforcement officers, and the University of Wyoming Police Department. These types of cases are typically ordinance violations (both civil and criminal) and traffic infractions (criminal). The crimes heard by this court occur within city limits and are classified as misdemeanors. On the day of court Judge Lopez's expectations include:
- Speaking properly
- o State yes and no, NOT yeah and nah
- o Do NOT misuse the word "like"
- o Use the correct grammar
- Dressing appropriately
- o Collar shirt
- o Slacks, dress pants
- o No low cut shirts or low rise pants
- o No open toe shoes
- o No hats, such as baseball caps
- Do NOT argue but instead ask questions
- o Be polite and respectful
- Go to the University of Wyoming's students' attorney or another attorney to understand the crime, possibilities, punishment, and options in regard to the crime charged before attending court
- Be willing to accept your actions without making excuses
- Always stand when speaking to the judge
- Be prepared to answer questions in a polite and respectful manner
- Take every charge seriously, because each one can reflect on your future employment, education, etc.
- Know Judge Lopez is the authority figure in the courtroom so treat him in this manner
- Be honest with NO excuses for the crime(s) committed
Judge Lopez's expectations in the courtroom originate from personal preference and the law. It is important and anticipated that an individual is to pay attention to the judge's expectations to make the day in court go as smoothly as possible.
Judge Robert A. Castor is the judge for Laramie's Circuit Court for Albany County. The cases that are heard by Laramie's Circuit Court are cases that originate from civil disputes, small claims, traffic infractions, misdemeanor offenses and felony preliminary hearings under state law, domestic relations disputes, and mental health issues, among others. When a crime is committed outside of the city limits of Laramie, even a misdemeanor offense such as an underage alcohol violation, an individual is likely to attend Circuit Court. A way to determine whether you are within the jurisdiction of the Circuit Court is to pay attention to the type of officer that cites you with the crime. If it is a highway patrol officer or a sheriff, it is likely you will attend Circuit Court. However, if an offense occurs within the city limits, a Laramie Police Officer can cite an individual into Circuit Court under a state law if there is no Laramie city ordinance defining the individual's behavior as a crime. On the day of court, Judge Castor's expectations include:
- "Know your judge" so you know what to expect in the courtroom you enter
- If in a civil case such as a small claim, have respect for the other litigants by bringing a prepared case
- ALWAYS be aware of jurisdiction
- If a behavioral problem arises it will be addressed in the courtroom
- There should not be a particular and/or specific expectation of the public from "us," the court, so do not expect one
- The main concern in this courtroom is the access to the court
Judge Castor's expectations in the courtroom also originate from personal preference and the law. It is important and anticipated that an individual is to pay attention to the judge's expectations to make the day in court go as smoothly as possible.
Judge Jeffrey A. Donnell is the judge for Laramie's District Court. The cases that are heard by Laramie's District Court are felony criminal cases, juvenile and probate matters, appeals from lower courts, and large civil cases. This court is of general jurisdiction which means the court can hear cases that are civil or criminal as long as they arise within the geographical area and jurisdiction of that court. Most criminal charges that a student may deal with are not likely to be within the jurisdiction of the District Court.
If an individual is a University of Wyoming student, another thing to realize is that there are a number of resources available to assist her in regard to any legal issues that may arise while attending the university. First, there is the University of Wyoming Students' Attorneys' website, http://www.uwyo.edu/studentatty/. The website provides information (but not legal advice) on the following:
I. Program information II. Appointment information
III. Consumer credit IV. Contracts
V. Criminal Law VI. Domestic relations
VII. Domestic violence, stalking, and sexual assault
VIII. Expectations in Laramie's courtrooms
IX. First Offender Treatment X. Intellectual property XI. Landlord/tenant information XII. Military deployment XIII. Traffic/Parking violations XIV. State of Wyoming statutes XV. City of Laramie Municipal Code
Second, the University of Wyoming Students' Attorney Program offers students consultation services with a licensed attorney. These services are already paid for by a part of each student's fees. Appointments are made to meet with this licensed attorney, also known as the students' attorney. Each session is confidential and in person. The students' attorney assists in problem resolution by drafting legal documents (such as a will) for a $20 document fee, writing demand letters, providing packets with guidelines to fill out the student's own paperwork (such as for a name change), providing pamphlets containing information on the topic at issue, and providing ongoing suggestive steps to take and coordination services to help to resolve the legal problem. However, the students' attorney can only consult with the student and give legal advice and aid but is not allowed to litigate for the student in court. The students' attorney also cannot give assistance on a student's issue if it is of an adversarial nature with another University of Wyoming student due to a conflict of interest unless both students consent in writing to come in and talk with the students' attorney together.
Finally, the University of Wyoming College of Law provides four legal clinics. These services are available to those who are classified as low income under specified guidelines. Most students would probably qualify. The two legal clinics that are available to students are the Legal Services Clinic and the Domestic Violence Clinic. These two clinics provide assistance for divorce, child custody, modification of divorce and child custody, domestic violence protection orders, stalking orders, guardian ad litem appointments in juvenile and domestic relations cases, consumer debt, public benefits, and return of property and immigration issues. These clinics are different than the Students' Attorney Program because the clinics are staffed by third year law students who can practice law under a University of Wyoming law professor or Wyoming bar member. The law students are able to interview, counsel, research, provide discovery, carry out negotiation, and conduct motion practice, trials, and appeals for their clients.
No matter what may bring a student to court, it is important to know what to expect when entering a specific courtroom in the town where he or she lives. This is why the information above has been provided to the students of the University of Wyoming.