If you have a child starting college this year, you hope their interactions with campus police will be minimal and involve nothing more than asking for directions. However, that may be too optimistic.
Freshman year is full of new experiences –- and not all of them are good. Young college students are exposed to new people and new amounts of freedom, which can be a dangerous combination. That’s why they need to understand the authority that the campus police have and their rights when dealing with them.
What authority does campus police have at a college?
Many college students make the mistake of not treating campus police with the respect they’d treat city, county or state law enforcement officers. Some colleges do hire private security guards. However, larger schools often have their own police departments. For example, the University of California San Diego officers are part of the University of California Police Department.
However, even if your college student is at a school with private campus security, the guards still have authority granted to them by the school. It’s important to know what that is and the consequences are for refusing to cooperate with them. They’re always free to call local law enforcement for backup.
College students’ constitutional rights and protections
College students have constitutional rights, whether they’re on campus or off. For example, they have a Fifth Amendment right not to answer a campus police officer’s questions. That doesn’t mean, however, that the school can’t take disciplinary action if they don’t cooperate.
When it comes to Fourth Amendment protections against unlawful search and seizure, students may have less protection against a search of their dorm room or other university-owned housing. Their rights should be outlined in their rental agreement. As with refusing to answer questions, they may not be in legal jeopardy by allowing a search of their room. However, they could face school disciplinary consequences.
If your college student is facing charges, it may be tempting to let them handle things on their own. However, both criminal charges and college disciplinary actions can affect scholarships, memberships on teams and can even result in expulsion. Some criminal charges can follow them for the rest of their lives and even prevent them from getting a job in their chosen profession. Getting experienced legal guidance can improve their chances of avoiding these consequences.