If you're a teenager throwing a party and police are knocking on your door, you don't have to answer, but it's probably a good idea.
And you don't have to let them in unless they have a search warrant or have probable cause to check something out.
"If (officers) smell something they shouldn't smell or see what they believe is underage drinking, they can check it out without a search warrant," Stanislaus County Judge Ricardo Córdova said.
Córdova was one of three Stanislaus County Superior Court judges who busted a few myths about the legal system for students at Enochs High School on Wednesday. Judges Dawna Reeves and Nan Jacobs joined him in talking with students about their rights and the consequences of activities such as spray painting buildings.
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"We're not here to teach you how to break the law or get around the law," government teacher Todd Sevick said. "We want you to better understand your rights."
The discussion helped students see why police officers do what they do.
"I had questions about certain offenses that I see on TV, and I think '(police) can't do that,' but (the judges) justified a lot of it here today," said David Melendez, 17, an Enochs senior.
Melendez said he learned a lot. Like some teens, he thought minors' criminal records are wiped clean when they turn 18. The judges said that's not always true, depending on the severity of the violations.
Because of the state's financial woes, the county courthouse is closed one Wednesday a month, so judges are using the furlough days to reach out to the community.
"It gives the students a chance to engage, ... sometimes, people don't realize the consequences. If this makes them think about it ..." Córdova said. "(Judges) wanted to take advantage of the court closure days. We don't get active enough in the community as we should."
Other students' questions centered on their rights if they're pulled over by police while driving. One student said his mom tells him he'll be locked up if he is pulled over and doesn't have his driver's license on him.
"You're not going to jail -- it's an infraction," Jacobs said. It's usually a fix-it ticket or the officer might let the driver go with a warning, but it depends on the person's attitude when pulled over, the judges said.
Others asked how officials decide when and when not to try minors as adults. Judges said the district attorney's office is in charge of those decisions, but that it depends on many factors, including the severity of the crime of which the minor is accused and the defendant's criminal record.
Some students wondered about family infighting. One girl said her mom kicked her out, so a friend's family took her in. The teen asked if her mom can call the police to force her back home.
The judges said the issue would fall under family court and that some minors have successfully sought alternate custody agreements in similar circumstances.
Judges will continue to visit schools throughout the school year.
Bee staff writer Michelle Hatfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2339. Read Hatfield's education blog at thehive. modbee.com/ExtraCredit.