As UCSB students prepare their return to school, William C. Makler, the self-proclaimed “Isla Vista Lawyer,” is readying himself for a busy Fall Quarter.
Makler, a former public defender, specializes in counseling and defending students living in I.V. on charges ranging from alcohol-related infractions and misdemeanors to more serious charges like assault and burglary.
In 2004, Makler spoke at the “Know Your Rights” lecture hosted by Associated Students. More recently, he launched an “Isla Vista Lawyer” Web site and blog offering legal advice and updates on local legislation affecting I.V. residents.
Makler said he expects the I.V. community will see a spike in arrests this coming fall. He said such an increase will stem from the arrival of inexperienced freshmen who are ignorant of I.V. laws and recent public policy changes that seek to increase the I.V. Foot Patrol’s potency. Over the summer, the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors reviewed amendments to I.V.’s Nuisance Party and Festival Ordinances. Infractions such as urinating in public, arson and public nudity were added to the list of infractions that could land a party’s host a $500 fine for violating the Nuisance Party Ordinance.
“There has been a multidimensional mission, driven by the DA’s office, to expand the authority of law enforcement and reach into the private lives of people,” Makler said. “They are very aggressive in terms of how they interpret the law and in their pro-citation policy. A lawyer can help you push back a little.”
Most of his clients, Makler said, are worried about the short-term effects of the charges they face, – namely, the suspension of their driver licenses.
“I take civil liberties very seriously, and I worry about my clients, how these criminal charges could affect them in the future,” he said.
Makler said very few students consider the more insidious consequences of a criminal record, which could include difficulty succeeding in a competitive job market or complications in later legal suits.
“I feel bad for the students who don’t take it seriously,” Makler said.
Third-year biochemistry major Ivan Vujkovic-Cvijin said I.V.’s surroundings are partly to blame for the lack of consideration made by some residents, yet he also said he is not too intimidated by I.V.’s policies.
“In the environment of I.V., it is easy to forget that you are breaking laws when you are partying, and it’s difficult to get too worried about the consequences,” Vujkovic-Cvijin said. “Frankly, I’m just not that concerned about it.”
Corey Pollak, a third-year UCSB transfer student living on Del Playa Drive, said he knows firsthand how having a lawyer can help to alleviate some of the consequences of a criminal conviction. After local authorities charged Pollak and his friends with riding stolen bikes, the students were assigned public defenders to help them through the legal system.
“The lawyer was tight,” he said. “He was really straightforward and helped to answer a lot of my questions.”
Pollak was ultimately found guilty of theft and sentenced to 150 hours of community service.
While Makler advises that hiring a lawyer could help mitigate the legal consequences of an arrest, he also said community members should educate themselves to avoid invasions of privacy.
“If an individual walks up to you and asks to pat you down, you would say ‘No,'” he said. “Don’t think because the person is a police officer they have the right to touch you.”
Additionally, he said the same policy holds true if an officer asks to enter a resident’s home or search his or her belongings without a warrant. Makler also said he advises against self-implication.
“It seldom ever is a good idea to make a statement to police,” Makler said. “There are a number of cases where students have done serious damage to their defense by doing so.”
Community members can reach Makler at ivlawyer.com or (805) 892-4922.