Crime and consequence: Lawyers educate kids on how not to become part of the system

  • Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Students at Hemingway High School were provided valuable insight into how crime can affect their freedom. If convicted, a student can lose scholarships, access to student loans and even housing. The discussion was lead by a group of local lawyers participating in Community Law Week. PHOTO BY MICHAELE DUKE

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It only takes on bad decision to ruin your life: Just ask a lawyer or the assistant solicitors who, unfortunately, see many young people face the consequence of their actions. In an effort to reach out to area youth about crime and its consequences a group of lawyers are taking their message “Think Twice: A Lesson on Criminal Law and Collateral Consequences” where they can make the biggest impact - the schools.

The team, which includes local attorneys Amanda Shuler, Doward Harvin, Kimberly Barr and Assistant Solicitor for the Third Judicial Circuit, Tyler Brown, met with students at Hemingway High School as part of the Young Lawyers Division Public Service Project in observance of Community Law Week. The setting was relaxed and informal and well received by the students. The panel discussed crimes, potential punishments and other consequences that can arise as a result of a criminal conviction.

Topics ranged from simple possession to armed robbery and how a conviction can affect qualifying for college scholarships, governmental subsidized housing and SNAP benefits. The topics were presented in a scenario-type format. For example, a boy drives his girlfriend to a store where she robs the clerk. To the surprise of many students, both will be could and likely would be charged with robbery. Another scenario describes a group of people are riding in a car when the driver is stopped. When drugs are discovered in the vehicle all passengers are charged with possession. If convicted of this crime the student can lose scholarships and even keep his family from receiving food stamps.

The students were engaged in the discussion, asked questions and walked away with a better understanding of the law and how one bad decision can change their lives forever, which was the goal according to moderator Amanda Shuler. “Many people do not realize that they can lose much more than just his or her freedom by committing a crime,” said Shuler. “One can lose a driver's license, scholarships, access to student loans, or they may lose access to governmental housing. Some crimes require lifetime sex offender registration. Once someone is convicted of a crime, it makes it difficult for that person to find a job.”

The Young Lawyers Division is a community and professional service organization of the South Carolina Bar. The Young Lawyers Division serves as a public relations tool for the profession providing a mechanism through which young lawyers fulfill their public service goals. “We spoke to the high school students in hopes to let them know that there are many reasons not to commit crimes,” said Shuler. “Having just one conviction can change their lives forever.” 

Community Law Week is an annual event held in the beginning of May in conjunction with the nationally recognized Law Day. During Community Law Week, members of the South Carolina Bar Young Lawyers Division work together to promote the legal profession while at the same time serving the community. In 2013, in observance of Community Law Week, Shuler, Harvin and several other lawyers visited the Kingstree Magnet School where they read books to the students as a part of the Cocky's Reading Express program. The children were also given a copy of the book to take home. The panel is available for school visits. For information contact M. Amanda Shuler, Third Circuit Representative for the Young Lawyers Division at (843)355-2800.

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