DUI/DWI Charges on North Carolina College Campuses

School has started again, and local Charlotte colleges and universities are back to starting classes. In addition to celebrating with older new friends, purchasing books for classes, and getting into the fall academic routine, some students could face charges for impaired driving. Many students have seen campus police around their campus but may not know what type of legal authority campus police have when making stops and arrests for DWI charges.

The Limits of Legal Authority for Campus Police Officers

G.S. 116-40.5 and G.S. 115D-21.1(a) set forth the authority of campus police officers. Both of these sections have further subsections that permit campus police officers to enter into joint agreements with the governing board of a municipality or county to extend law enforcement authority to campus police officers. Essentially, these statutes give campus police officers the ability to have the legal authority to make arrests.

However, their authority is limited by their jurisdiction. In North Carolina, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is considered an implied consent offense. A law enforcement officer investigating an implied consent offense in the officer's jurisdiction is authorized to investigate and seek evidence of the driver's impairment anywhere in North Carolina or out of state and to make arrests anywhere in North Carolina.

Another provision states that campus police officers appointed by campus law enforcement agencies or commissioned by the attorney general can arrest a person outside their territorial jurisdiction when the person arrested has committed a criminal offense for which the officer could have arrested the person within their jurisdiction.

The North Carolina Court of Appeals ruled on some of these issues in a case called State v. Scruggs in 2011. In this case, two campus police officers plan to assist with a DWI checkpoint conducted by the campus police department. The checkpoint was canceled because of rain. Instead, the two officers patrol the county, looking for traffic violations, especially those involving impaired driving.

The officers stopped the defendant, who was writing a moped, claiming they had probable cause because he made an illegal turn and was wearing an illegal helmet. They claimed they reasonably suspected the defendant was driving while impaired because he came to a "jerky" stop. After they stopped the defendant, they noticed the smell of alcohol, administered three field sobriety tests were performed, and the defendant was arrested for DWI. At the time of the arrest, the campus police department had an agreement with the city to extend the jurisdiction of the police department in certain situations.

When appealing his conviction, the defendant argued that the stop and arrest violated North Carolina law because the campus police did not have the legal authority to arrest him. The appeals court examined the statutory provisions relevant to campus police. They ruled that the defendant's arrest was constitutional and permitted and that even if the arrest violated relevant statutes, it did not rise to the level of a substantial violation. The court's ruling is essential when it comes to campus police officers making arrests outside of their jurisdiction. Campus police officers can legally arrest a student driving on a road nearby but not technically on the college campus.

Charged With a DWI as a College Student? We Can Help

As you can see, campus police officers do have the authority to make arrests for DWI. However, this does not mean they are infallible. As with any other police officer, campus officers cannot arrest students without probable cause. They also cannot pull a driver over on campus without a reasonable suspicion that the driver is committing a crime.

In North Carolina, there is a zero-tolerance law for those charged with a DWI who are under the age of 21. If you are found with any alcohol in your system while driving a vehicle, even if it is negligible, you can be arrested and convicted of a DWI. The best thing you can do if campus police have arrested you is to contact an experienced attorney who can begin developing your legal defense.

Discuss Your Case With a Charlotte DWI Defense Attorney

You could get kicked out of school if you are convicted of a DWI as a college student. You could also be rejected for specific jobs because of a criminal record. The sooner you contact an attorney, the sooner your attorney can begin defending against the charges. The attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC, will carefully review the campus police officer's actions and determine whether they violated your constitutional rights. Don't hesitate to contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC, to schedule a free case evaluation.