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Experts in Oregon law spoke to an audience of 15 students, Oregon State University employees and community members Tuesday evening at the Memorial Union, advising them on the public’s legal rights when interacting with law enforcement.

The panel included Joan Demarest, an attorney with Oregon State University’s legal advising office, Corvallis Police patrol Officer Nick Hurley, Oregon State Police Senior Trooper Orly Johnson and Claire Syrett, the field director of the American Civil Liberties Union-Oregon.

The panel discussion was hosted by the Associated Students of OSU’s community affairs task force. ASOSU has one or two such forums each year for several years.

Syrett provided an overview of suggestions: don’t panic during a stop, learn which agency is involved in the stop, never attempt to flee, always request an attorney if arrested and seek remedy if you feel your rights are violated. She added that officer missteps can be discovered through due process.

“Officers can make honest mistakes,” Syrett said.

Syrett also explained the public’s rights regarding searches and what can be said during an encounter.

All of the members of the panel urged anyone stopped by police to cooperate. They also defined a police encounter as different than a casual conversation; law enforcement has to ask an individual or group to stop and explain the reason for the stop.

Some who are stopped on the suspicion of a being a minor in possession of alcohol, for example, can end up being charged with serious criminal charges if they argue and struggle with police or give police a false name or identification.

“Don’t compound it,” Johnson said.

Demarest added that alcohol-related laws — especially being a minor in possession of alcohol — are in place to prevent detrimental effects of underage drinking.

“You have to realize that there’s a reason for these laws that they’re out there enforcing,” she said.

Contact Gazette-Times reporter Gail Cole at 541-758-9510 or

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