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South Carolina college has its own municipal court

As you walk on the campus of Clemson University, you may think the laws and rules of surrounding Clemson, South Carolina, apply. However, this may not be the case.

Clemson University has the unique position of being its own municipality. The municipality of Clemson University includes a five-mile radius around the center of the campus. This separates the college from the town of Clemson. Where you are located between Clemson and Clemson University could affect which laws apply.

One example: open container laws

For example, Clemson University’s municipal laws allow of-age students to have an open container during game days in select tailgating areas. However, the city of Clemson has its own law against open containers. If students choose to tailgate off campus, walking around with an open container violates Clemson city laws.

Separate municipalities

The South Carolina General Assembly established the college as a municipality in 1894. The town of Calhoun was incorporated in 1937 right next to Clemson University. In 1943, the town changed its name to Clemson. Since then, the two municipalities have been separate entities.

Separate courts

The separate municipalities of the college and city mean that each has separate municipal courts. An arrest by university police means that you go through a municipal court set up through the college. This court has a judge appointed by Clemson University’s board of trustees. This judge can rule on any cases that go through the university police. He or she can also sign off on search warrants for university police, bypassing the need for the university to go through the sheriff’s office or the Clemson city police.

Any ruling by the university judge has the same legal strength as the city court. Students may also face university discipline hearings, but the college holds those hearings based on the university’s code of conduct.

Understanding the difference

If you attend Clemson University, you should understand the legal differences between the college and the city. The specific location where the arrest occurred (or where the alleged crime took place) can affect which laws apply. It also affects which court hears your case. These can both have an impact on your future.


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