Written by Vicki Viall
School field trips are great. They get you out of class for a bit, and they can take you to the most interesting places. Take Wednesday, Feb. 5, for example. Michael MacDonald’s senior government class took a quick walk down Main Street to the City Hall conference room.
For a little over an hour, the class was treated to presentations by Wolf Point Police Sergeant Ryan Michaelson, Wolf Point Police Chief Jeff Harada, Justice of the Peace/city court judge Traci Harada, Wolf Point city attorney/Roosevelt County deputy attorney Jordan Knudsen and youth probation officer Ron Kemp.
Michaelson shared about his job and included what he considers the rewards: becoming involved in situations that have him acting as “counselor” and/or “lawyer” to solve and resolve disputes and conflicts. He also considers it a reward to stop someone from being victimized or, if able, to make an arrest and seek justice for the victims.
On the other hand, however, every day he puts his own safety on the line to help and protect the citizens of Wolf Point.
Chief Harada reinforced what Michaelson shared and added that their job is “doing the right things for the right reasons.”
He mentioned being grateful for their bullet-proof vests to help ensure their safety. The number one goal for himself and all his officers is the same: to make it through each day and to arrive home after their shift ends safely.
Judge Harada shared the difference between her job and the job of a district court judge. She pointed out that she is not an attorney. She also noted that she was elected and has recently filed seeking reelection. Additionally, she must live in Roosevelt County but not necessarily in Wolf Point city limits.
Though she is not an attorney, she must complete required training and pass a certification exam. She also has annual training that must be completed.
She went on to share some of the penalties that she can and does dispense in her courtroom. For example, she can issue restraining orders, sign search warrants, impose fines up to $12,000 and set bail among a much longer list. She also touched on driving under the influence, minor in possession and alcohol training classes.
After getting the group warmed up with potential penalties, she turned the podium over to Knudsen. He shared handouts with the class that covered amendments the Constitution. One example was the First Amendment which guarantees freedom of the press. He touched on the Fifth Amendment and the Fourth Amendment.
The Fourth Amendment covers probable cause and the prosecution’s responsibility to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt. He pointed out that the defense merely needs to show doubt.
He explained the entire process beginning with a simple traffic stop. His example turned into smelling beer and seeing empty cans. From there, it went through a field sobriety test and, potentially, a search warrant for a blood sample.
From there, the example continued with all the steps the case would take through the courts, through a jury versus a bench trial and possible penalties.
He wrapped up with a reminder that the burden of proof is on the prosecution, stating thatthey need to prove, beyond reasonable doubt, three things:
1. The defendant was in control of the situation.
2. The incident occurred on a public road.
3. The defendant was under the influence.
Kemp shared how his duties with youth on probation affect them. He pointed out that being on probation means one gives up much of their personal freedom — and that he, the probation officer, now controls it.
Kemp pointed out that a juvenile record is usually a sealed record and not available for future incidents unless it was of such a nature that it can be used. However, he also quickly pointed out that many careers in life require background checks and those records can come back to haunt one.
He wrapped up and MacDonald escorted his class, much wiser from their trip, back to school.