College students possess constitutional rights in their dealings with campus police. But they may be in for some unpleasant surprises if they are unaware of the extent of these rights.
The Fifth Amendment right to remain silent is an important criminal defense right. College students also possess this right and should be prepared to exercise it.
Students can tell police they wish to remain silent and speak to an attorney. But colleges may impose discipline for failure to cooperate with their investigation.
The Fourth Amendment allows individuals to refuse a search of their body or residence unless the police possess a warrant or if there is probable cause.
Probable cause is a relatively high standard. Smelling marijuana coming underneath the door from a student’s dormitory room is not probable cause. Police may not ask a resident assistant to let them into a student’s dorm room.
But many universities have policies or leases allowing campus police to enter campus housing or for employees to inspect the room. Sometimes, notice is required.
Usually, any illegal substances found without express consent or warrant may not be used in a criminal prosecution. However, this may be grounds for disciplinary action including loss of university housing.
State, local or campus police may stop students for suspicion of drunk driving. Motorists do not have to submit to a chemical blood alcohol test, but this may be grounds to suspend their operator’s license. Drivers may refuse to consent to field sobriety tests.
Motorists do not have to consent to a vehicle search unless they are arrested. Drivers should show their license registration and proof of insurance to police if asked. Motorists, however, should always exercise their right to remain silent. Do not answer questions, even if they appear innocent about your whereabouts or how much you drank.
Local and campus police have the power to arrest. You should always be prepared and memorize your family’s phone number and, if possible, your attorney’s contact information. Have a plan with family or friends to provide you with required medications if you are taken into custody or for them to take care of your children.
Remain silent, do not consent to a search of your residence and vehicle, and ask for an attorney. Remain silent even if police try to act like your friend or make threats. Do not lie.
You can make one telephone call. Police can listen in on phone calls except those made to attorneys.
Never physically resist police or run away. Police misconduct may be reported later.
Campus arrests can have legal consequences and upend your academic plans. Attorneys can assist you in these situations.