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Knowing Your Rights With Campus Police

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Knowing Your Rights With Campus Police
Ronald Watkins
NOVEMBER 25, 2020
There are few things as jarring for a young person new to the freedom of college life than being confronted by police on campus. Thankfully, most of these interactions do not develop into more serious problems, and students’ rights often aren’t infringed.

However, what if a more serious incident takes place? It’s vital to know your rights when dealing with campus police — preferably before an incident occurs. Here’s what you need to know.

Can I Remain Silent?
The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees you the right to remain silent during police questioning. This applies whether you’re stopped by the “real” police or campus police, who nevertheless often have the same rights to arrest you.

If you feel that your rights are under threat, respectfully state that you wish to exercise your right to remain silent and request a lawyer before answering any further questions.

However, you should be aware that some schools have disciplinary policies for failing to cooperate with a university investigation.

Can I Refuse a Search Without a Warrant?
According to the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution, you do not have to agree to a search of your body or apartment unless the police have a warrant or there is “probable cause.”

The threshold for probable cause is actually relatively high. Smelling marijuana smoke underneath someone’s door does not suffice as probable cause. Sufficient cause would only be present if, for example, it was clear a violent act was being committed. The police may not ask an RA to simply let them into your dorm room.

However, if you live in college housing, it may be part of your school policy or rental agreement that campus police have the right to “inspect” the property. University staff must typically give 24-hours notice under most university procedures. Without explicit consent or a warrant, any contraband found can not be used against you in a criminal investigation. It may, however, result in university disciplinary action. source

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