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What are your rights if you deal with campus police?

Students often make jokes about the campus police. But college students may ignore the role campus police have with protecting them. Student may also seriously underestimate the real world and potentially long-term consequences of an arrest or investigation by campus police and should be aware of the important rights they possess.

Remain silent

The Fifth Amendment right to remain silent governs government law enforcement and campus police. If you feel threatened, respectfully state that you are exercising your right to remain silent and that you want to speak to an attorney before answering questions.

Some colleges, however, may impose discipline for failure to cooperate with a university investigation.

Warrantless searches

The Fourth Amendment protects you from police searches of your body or dwelling without probable cause or unless the police have a warrant. For example, police may not ask your resident assistant for entry into your dorm room without probable cause or a warrant.

But the rental or housing agreement for your dorm room or campus apartment may allow campus police to inspect the property. At most colleges, university staff must provide 24- hours’ notice.

Without a warrant or expressed consent, any illegal substances or contraband may not be used in a criminal prosecution. But it could lead to university disciplinary action.


Your rights for suspected driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs are similar if you are stopped by state, local or campus police.

Typically, you do not have to leave your vehicle to undergo a field sobriety test, but the police may request that you undergo a breath or blood alcohol content test. You can also refuse a breathalyzer test, but your license will be suspended under the principle of implied consent.

Unless you are under arrest, you do not have to consent to a search of your person. Police should have a warrant to search your vehicle.

You are not required to answer questions about your activities or whether you were drinking. Nonetheless, you must provide your license, vehicle registration and proof of insurance to police if you are stopped in your vehicle.

If you are arrested

If you think there is a chance of arrest, you should prepare. Memorize your family’s and attorney’s phone numbers because you will likely have access to your cell phone. Plan for childcare or for having access to your medications.

Remember your right to remain silent if you are arrested. Do not answer questions without an attorney.

You may make a local telephone call. Police cannot listen in on your calls with your attorney but may eavesdrop on other calls.

Police may act friendly so encourage you to reveal incriminating information or agree to a search. They may also make threats if you do not disclose information or consent to a search. Remember to remain silent and that you may refuse to consent to a search.


If you believe campus police violated your rights, take your complaints as high up in the campus administration as you can.

Remember that you also have due process rights even if no criminal charges are not filed but if a college attempts to impose disciplinary action. Discipline can impact your ability to complete your education, remain on campus or stay in campus housing, among other things. University discipline may permanently impact your education and career.

An attorney can help protect your rights in criminal and disciplinary investigations and proceedings. Lawyers may seek a dismissal of charges or, where appropriate, lesser penalties.