Disclaimer

This website is not meant to give legal advice or create an attorney client relationship. Every case is different and the correct course of action can depend on nuance. Students are encouraged to contact the office to set up an appointment to meet with an attorney.

Student Rights Advocates

If you need assistance in a University related case, please contact the Student Rights Advocates’ office at (517) 884-1253 or dsrals@asmsu.msu.edu. For information regarding the SRA services, please visit their webpage here www.asmsu.msu.edu/services/student-rights-advocates/ .

What is Student Legal Services?

Student Legal Services is a student government sponsored program that provides free legal services for all eligible Michigan State University students through a private law firm consisting of attorneys, legal interns, and support staff. Our office provides students with advice and representation regarding a wide range of legal issues including criminal misdemeanors, landlord-tenant matters, traffic offenses, speaking engagements, and much more. Student Legal Services in sponsored by the Associated Students of Michigan State University (ASMSU) and the Council of Graduate Students (COGS).

Who We Are

Since 1984, the law firm of Jeffries & Newton has been retained by ASMSU and COGS to administer the Student Legal Services program. With a combined 65 years of legal experience at Student Legal Services, Brian Jeffries, James Newton, and Adam Cozort have demonstrated the skills and understanding necessary to represent the unique needs of students.

Services

Criminal

Minor in possession of alcohol is one of the most common misdemeanors that our office deals with.  This offense occurs when a person under the age of 21 possesses alcohol either on their person or has any bodily alcohol content.  Many cities and the state of Michigan offer their own forms of MIP diversion or deferment that allow a first time offender to complete a program to keep the MIP off of their criminal record.  The programs for the state of Michigan and East Lansing are discussed below.

State of Michigan Diversion
An offense that occurs on the MSU campus would fall under the state of Michigan diversion program.  This program requires a 90 day term of probation.  The person must also complete an online alcohol course. The first 60 days will include random breathalyzing.  There is also a fine and probation cost of $495.

City of East Lansing
An offense that occurs off campus and within the city limits of East Lansing will fall under the East Lansing deferment program.  This program has a 90 day deferment period, meaning that if the person is charged with another misdemeanor within those 90 days, the original MIP charge will be reissued.  The person must also complete an online alcohol course and pay a $550 fine.  At the completion of 90 days, if no new offenses have been committed, the MIP is reduced to a civil infraction littering charge

Operating while intoxicated is a very serious offense that carries many serious and expensive ramifications with it.  An OWI is issued when a person is operating a motor vehicle with a BAC of .08 or above.  A person charged with OWI should always be represented by an attorney in order to better protect their interest.  The statutory fines and punishments are listed below, but it should be noted that the fine here does not represent the total cost of an OWI. Court costs will also need to be factored in.

  • $500 maximum fine
  • 6 points on your drivers license
  • $1000 Driver Responsibility Fee for 2 years ($2000 total)
  • Up to 180 day license suspension with the possibility of a restricted license after 30 days
  • Maximum jail time of 93 days
  • Up to 360 hours of community service
  • Possible vehicle immobilization
  • Possible vehicle ignition interlock
Operating while visibly impaired is another alcohol related offense that ties closely to OWI.  An OWI will be issued when a person is operating a motor vehicle with a BAC less than .08 if the officer determines the person is driving with less ability than a normal driver. The possible statutory fines and punishments are listed below, but it should be noted that the fine here does not represent the total cost of an OWVI. Court costs will also need to be factored in.

  • $300 maximum fine
  • 4 points on your license
  • $500 Driver Responsibility Fee for 2 years ($1000 total)
  • 90 day license restriction
  • Possible vehicle immobilization
  • Up to 93 days in jail
  • Up to 360 hours of community service
DWLS occurs when a person is operating a motor vehicle with a license that has been suspended for any reason.  This is a misdemeanor.  Commonly the suspension has resulted from failure to pay fines from other traffic offenses, acquiring too many points on your license, or as a result of another traffic offense that requires a suspension.  If you receive a DWLS, we always recommend that you try to take care of the cause of the suspension if possible.  The possible fines and punishments for DWLS are listed below.

Driving While License Suspended (1st offense, 257.904)

  • Up to 93 days in jail
  • Up to $500 Fine

Driving While License Suspended (2nd offense, 257.904)

  • Up to 1 year in jail
  • Up to $1000
Disorderly conduct is an offense that encompasses many prohibited acts.  Common violations are listed below.  The penalties and fines will vary based on if the charge is an East Lansing ordinance (26-52), a Michigan State University ordinance (15.00), or State of Michigan law (750.167).  A complete listing of prohibited acts can be found in the code sections listed.

  • Do not be intoxicated in a public place and be endangering directly the safety of another person or property.
  • Do not urinate, defecate or spit on any street, sidewalk, alley, park, parkway, parking lot or structure, public carrier or upon any public property.
  • Assault, obstruct, resist, hinder, or oppose any member of the police force, any peace officer, or firefighter in the discharge of his/her duties as such.
  • No person shall be or remain on public property or the unenclosed private property of another within 300 feet of a structure fire, vehicle fire or open fire, except persons attempting to put out or contain the fire.
Assault is a charge stemming from the unlawful contact with another person.  This charge is most commonly seen in connection with a fight or altercation.  There are varying degrees of assault, and while all the ones listed here are misdemeanors, there are felony charges that can arise from an assault.  The statutory fines and punishments can be found below.

Assault (750.81, East Lansing Ordinance 26-63)

  • Up to 93 days in jail
  • Up to $500 Fine

Aggravated Assault or Assault with a Weapon (750.81a)

  • Up to 1 year in jail
  • Up to $1000 Fine

Domestic Violence (1st offense, 750.81)

  • Up to 93 days in jail
  • Up to $500 Fine

Domestic Violence (2nd Offense, 750.81)

  • Up to 1 year in jail
  • Up to $1000 Fine

It should be noted that a third offense for domestic violence is a felony punishable by up to $5000 fine and not more than 5 years in prison.

Immigration Law is a specialized area of Federal Law that is not covered by our services. Any international students charged with a crime could trigger investigation consequences and should seek advice from an attorney specializing in immigration law. We can make a referral if necessary.
Civil infractions are civil wrongs that do not rise to the level of a misdemeanor. Student Legal Services can give advice on civil infractions, but cannot represent. Students must respond to the tickets promptly and should schedule an appointment immediately upon receiving the citation.

 

Upon receiving a Civil Infraction you must respond within the time indicated on the ticket, usually 10 days. You have 3 options:

  1. Admit Responsibility – By pleaing responsible to accept the fine and corresponding points. If it is your first ticket, check with the Secretary of State to see if you are eligible for the Basic Driver Improvement Program. This program allows you to keep the points of your record.
  2. Admit Responsibility with an Explanation – Under this option you can submit a written explanation which the judge may take into consideration to reduce fines. You still get the points. 54-B offers a process called Online Case Review by which you can submit your argument online and get a judge’s opinion without going to court. Take note that the time to respond is less than 10 days.
  3. Deny Responsibility – Use this option if you wish to dispute whether you should have received the ticket at all.

You have the option of an informal or formal hearing. With the informal hearing, the officer goes first because they have the burden of proof. The burden, however, is just the preponderance of the evidence, more likely than not. Then you respond. Attorneys are not allowed to appear. If you lose, you may appeal to a formal hearing.

With a formal hearing, both sides may be represented by an attorney and the rules of evidence apply. If you lose you may be responsible for higher costs.

Lanlord/Tenant

We strongly encourage perspective tenants to have Student Legal Services go over the lease before tenants sign. We can help the tenants avoid signing a lease with illegal provisions, situations, or hidden consumer traps. We can also recommend areas of negotiation.
We assist numerous students every year on how to manage the process of wrongfully withheld security deposits. See the attached publication, “Security Deposits.”
The City of East Lansing is very aggressive about enforcing ordinances that prohibit living in an attic or basement and over occupancy. Also, there may be repair issues that need to be addressed.
Evictions are governed by statute, and are strictly interpreted. Timing can be crucial, so students need to schedule an appointment as soon as they receive the legal documents.
Sometimes subleases are unavoidable. We can help you do it right.

Programming

Student Legal Services is happy to do presentations to groups with special interests.  We recommend that you call well in advance of the event with an idea of topic to be addressed, number of expected attendees, date and location. Common themes include:

  • Landlord/Tenant – areas covered are things to look for in choosing an apartment, roommates and lease. Also addressed are security deposit issues and local ordinances.
  • Alcohol Liability – Alcohol liability is a large issue in the East Lansing community. Social host liability and underage drinking and consequences are common.

Exceptions

Student Legal Services in a district court practice. Federal Law issues such as immigration, taxation, patents and copyright are not covered. Nor are circuit court issues such as divorce, custody, felonies, or issues involving more than $25,000.

Conflicts of Interest

Student Legal Services is prohibited from representing students in any situation that appears to present a conflict of interest. For example, in a tenant versus tenant dispute we cannot speak to both sides. In that example, we would speak to the first party to come in in an effort to serve the most students possible. When possible, we would try to refer the second party to alternative representation.

A Note to Parents

Confidentiality – Each attorney is sworn to preserve the confidence of a client. Attorney-Client Privilege provides our clients with the assurance of absolute confidentiality. Any information provided to Student Legal Services will not be disclosed to parents, the University, police agencies, or any other individual or party without the client’s express written consent, or as required by law. It is essential that every client disclose the facts of his/her case to the attorney in order to receive the best possible advice and representation. Confidentiality waivers are available upon request.

Fees – Student Legal Services is available to all students who have paid a student activity fee. A portion of the student activity fee funds Student Legal Services. There is no additional cost although the student is responsible for all costs such as filing fees, motion fees and copying costs. Student Legal Services is not responsible for advancing any costs.

Contact Us

You must schedule an appointment in order to use Student Legal Services. Appointments will be scheduled during regular hours by either calling 517-353-3716 or visiting our office. You will be required to provide a valid student ID to verify eligibility.

Student Legal Services is located on the campus of Michigan State University at 556 E. Circle Drive, Rom 329, of the Student Services Building. Our office is open from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. Student Legal Services is closed Saturdays, Sundays, and all Michigan State University holidays.

Our office does not accept walk-ins or same day appointments and no advice will be given over the phone or via e-mail.

You are required to bring to your appointment any documentation that relates to your case. This includes all court notices and documents, police reports, tickets, lease, pictures, videos, e-mails, agreements and any other information that you think may help us assist you with your case.

Do not wait until the last minute to contact Student Legal Services.