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Is your college student prepared to deal with campus police?

On Behalf of | Aug 7, 2023 | Criminal Law

If you’re in the midst of helping your child shop for dorm room essentials before they head to college, you likely aren’t thinking about preparing them to deal with campus police. However, even if your child has never been in trouble, it’s wise to spend a few minutes discussing how to deal with these officers if they have to. 

New college students usually have more freedom than they’ve ever experienced. It’s too easy to find yourself in the wrong place at the wrong time participating in – or in the vicinity of – illegal behavior. 

Many schools have their own police department

Sometimes college students don’t take campus police seriously. That’s never a good idea. Even if they’re part of a private security company hired by the college and don’t have the power to arrest, you can be sure that local law enforcement is a quick phone call away and can be there in minutes.

Increasingly, colleges and universities do have their own police forces. These officers have all the authority of the local law enforcement agencies. For example, the University of Pennsylvania Police Department (UPPD) has over 100 full-time sworn officers.

College students have constitutional rights and protections

While college students need to be respectful of campus police officers, they also need to know that they still have constitutional rights – and how to assert their rights. This includes a Fifth Amendment protection against having to say anything that could incriminate them. 

They also have Fourth Amendment protection against illegal search and seizure of their property. That can get complicated, however, when you’re sharing a dorm room or apartment. Typically, law enforcement can’t search a dorm room without permission or a warrant. However, that doesn’t mean a roommate can’t let them in and insist that the bag of drugs they find doesn’t belong to them.

It’s also important to remember that some violations of the law, even if they aren’t pursued by law enforcement, can be cause for disciplinary action by the school. Many alleged offenses can carry both criminal and school disciplinary consequences. That’s just one reason why it’s crucial to help your child protect their rights if they’ve been arrested. 



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