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Campus Police and DWI in North Carolina

It’s back to school time, with both UNCC and CPCC starting classes this week. Back to school not only means new books for classes but also celebrating with old and new friends, and unfortunately, sometimes that celebrating can lead to impaired driving. Most people have seen campus police but let’s consider what their authority is when it comes to making stops and arrests for DWI.

At a state university, such as UNCC, G.S. 116-40.5 establishes the authority of the campus police. Subsection (a) of G.S. 116-40.5 states that

The Board of Trustees of any constituent institution of The University of North Carolina, or of any teaching hospital affiliated with but not part of any constituent institution of The University of North Carolina, or the Board of Directors of the North Carolina Arboretum, may establish a campus law enforcement agency and employ campus police officers. Such officers shall meet the requirements of Chapter 17C of the General Statutes, shall take the oath of office prescribed by Article VI, Section 7 of the Constitution, and shall have all the powers of law enforcement officers generally. The territorial jurisdiction of a campus police officer shall include all property owned or leased to the institution employing the campus police officer and that portion of any public road or highway passing through such property or immediately adjoining it, wherever located.

At a community college, such as CPCC, 115D-21.1 establishes the authority of the campus police. G.S. 115D-21.1(a) states that

The board of trustees of any community college may establish a campus law enforcement agency and employ campus police officers. These officers shall meet the requirements of Chapter 17C of the General Statutes, shall take the oath of office prescribed by Article VI, Section 7 of the Constitution, and shall have all the powers of law enforcement officers generally. The territorial jurisdiction of a campus police officer shall include all property owned or leased to the community college employing the officer and that portion of any public road or highway passing through the property and immediately adjoining it, wherever located.

Both statute sections contain further subsections which permit the campus police to “enter into joint agreements with the governing board” of a municipality or county “to extend the law enforcement authority of campus police officers into” the municipality’s or county’s “jurisdiction and to determine the circumstances under which this extension of authority may be granted.”

G.S. 20-38.2 further expands a campus police officer’s jurisdiction when investigating the offense of impaired driving, which is an implied consent offense. G.S. 20-38.2 states that

A law enforcement officer who is investigating an implied-consent offense or a vehicle crash that occurred in the officer's territorial jurisdiction is authorized to investigate and seek evidence of the driver's impairment anywhere in-state or out-of-state, and to make arrests at any place within the State.

Yet another statutory provision which addresses the authority of the campus police is found in G.S.  15A-402(f), which states that

A campus police officer: (i) appointed by a campus law-enforcement agency established pursuant to G.S. 116-40.5(a); (ii) appointed by a campus law enforcement agency established under G.S. 115D-21.1(a); or (iii) commissioned by the Attorney General pursuant to Chapter 74E or Chapter 74G of the General Statutes and employed by a college or university which is licensed, or exempted from licensure, by G.S. 116-15 may arrest a person outside his territorial jurisdiction when the person arrested has committed a criminal offense within the territorial jurisdiction, for which the officer could have arrested the person within that territory, and the arrest is made during such person's immediate and continuous flight from that territory.

The North Carolina Court of Appeals examined some of these statutory provisions in the 2011 case, State v. Scruggs. In Scruggs, two UNCG campus police officers had planned to assist with a checkpoint being conducted by the NCA&T campus police department. However, the checkpoint was cancelled due to rain, so instead the two UNCG police officers patrolled around the county looking for traffic violations, especially those involving impaired driving.

While on patrol, the officers noticed the defendant driving a moped. The defendant came to a “jerky” stop at the intersection and had trouble keeping his balance. When the light turned green, the defendant passed the car in front of him on the right and turned right onto another street. The officers stopped the defendant based on “probable cause to believe [the defendant] had made an illegal turn and was wearing an illegal helmet, but only reasonable suspicion that defendant was driving while impaired.” After stopping the defendant, the officers noticed an odor of alcohol as well as the defendant’s “thick speech.” They administered three field sobriety tests and then arrested the defendant for DWI.

At the time of Scruggs, the UNCG police department had an agreement with the City of Greensboro to extend the jurisdiction of the UNCG police department in certain situations. This agreement

extended the authority and jurisdiction of UNCG officers to make arrests off campus when they: 1) have probable cause to believe a felony has been committed; 2) have probable cause to believe that a misdemeanor has been committed and the person to be arrested might otherwise evade apprehension or cause harm to himself, other people or property unless immediately arrested; 3) witness a traffic offense or misdemeanor in a specific area near campus; and 4) see an individual for whom there is an outstanding warrant or order for arrest.

The defendant conceded that the stop was based on reasonable suspicion and that the arrest was based on probable cause. Therefore, both were constitutional. However, the defendant argued that his stop and arrest were a substantial violation of Chapter 15A of the General Statutes.

The court examined the statutory provisions relevant to campus police and determined that because “defendant's arrest was both constitutional and specifically permitted under terms of the mutual aid agreement as authorized by § 116–40.5(a),” the court believed that the “defendant's stop and arrest here, even if in violation of § 15A–402, [did] not rise to the level of a substantial violation.”

If you have been charged with DWI, contact Rosensteel Fleishman, PLLC (704) 714-1450, to speak with an attorney about your options.

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