Lessons in the first degree

High School students learn about local laws


Moffat County High School students did their own investigation of local laws that impact their age group.

For 45 minutes they posed questions to

K.C. Hume, chief investigator with the Moffat County Sheriff's Department.

The questions included whether patrol officers intentionally follow teenagers, if a driver can get a ticket if a passenger in his or her vehicle litters, and why a minor loses his or her license if arrested for underage drinking. They also asked what is the longest an officer can follow someone in a vehicle and how does one perform a citizen's arrest.

"They're very interested in laws that affect them," said American Government teacher Liane Davis-Kling.

Hume's question-and-answer session was part of Law Week for juniors and seniors in American Government class at MCHS.

For more than 10 years, Davis-Kling and Judge Mary Lynne James have teamed up for a law week once a semester for American Government students.

Last week, students participated in a mock advisory hearing at the Moffat County Courthouse, held a panel discussion on the Colorado vs. Spring case from Moffat County that went to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1986, and took a tour of the Moffat County Public Safety Center.

"The purpose of law week is for students to learn how the judicial branch works from law enforcement to court interpretation," Davis-Kling said. "It ties everything together so students can learn how the system works."

Davis-Kling said most students enjoy the jail tour most.

It was junior Jessica Sorensen's favorite part of the week.

"It was interesting to see the people that actually have to live in it," she said of the safety center.

It was different than she expected, she said.

"I expected everybody to have their own cell and thought it would be darker," she said.

She said she also was surprised that there were no bars anywhere to be seen in the facility.

"I would like to spend more time at the jail and learn more about law enforcement," she said.

Junior Kurt Anderson agreed that the safety center tour was interesting, but said he also benefited from another activity.

"I liked asking the cop and judge questions," he said. "It helped me to know what I can and can't

get away with."

Davis-Kling said another highlight of the week was a fake arrest conducted by local law enforcement officials on two students who volunteered to be arrested for a mock advisory hearing.

"They pulled up behind the school bus, arrested them and took them to court," she said.

The mock advisory hearing was based on a Moffat County murder case from the early 1980s that eventually made it to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Convicted murder John Spring was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of his friend Donald Walker in 1979.

Spring appealed his conviction on the grounds that his statements to investigators from three interrogation sessions should have been excluded from testimony at trial under the provisions of the Miranda v. Arizona case.

The case was taken to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled that the trial judge had not made errors that would warrant an appeal.

Davis-Kling said she hoped the significance of Spring's case would stimulate students' interest in law at a local level.

American Government teacher JoAnne Baxter, whose students also participated in law week, said the activities conducted during the week open students' eyes to how law works.

"It affects their lives," she said. "They sometimes don't think the law does."

Baxter said Davis-Kling deserves credit for a beneficial program for local students.

"She does an excellent job of setting all of this up," she said. "It's an excellent experience for the kids."

Josh Nichols can be reached at 824-7031 or jnichols@craigdailypress.com.

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