A Guide to Police Interaction for Underage College Students | 11.11.2021

In 2019 alone, there were 635 disciplinary referrals for liquor law violations on the University of South Carolina campus. During your time as a college student in Columbia or anywhere in SC, it’s critical to know how to manage drug and alcohol risks and defend your rights. If you ever end up in a situation where you’re confronted by a police officer or charged with a crime such as a MIP, DUI, or possession of a fake ID, understanding how to properly manage an arrest can help you get the best possible outcome to protect your future, especially if you’re underage.

Below are some helpful tips to keep in mind when interacting with the police as a college student.

What you SHOULD do:

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What you SHOULD NOT do:


  • Fall asleep on the ride to jail.
  • Bring any drugs into the jail.
  • Discuss your charges on jail phones.
  • Provide evidence against yourself.
  • Resist arrest.
  • Use force.
  • Escalate the situation.

What Are My Legal Rights?

Your legal rights under South Carolina law are in place to protect your freedom. Failure to know these rights and how to manage arrest can get you into more trouble. So, what are your rights as an underage college student facing a criminal charge?

Miranda Rights

You can, and you should exercise your right to remain silent. This will help you avoid making self-incriminating statements. Anything you say can and WILL be used against you.

If the police officer asks you to answer a question, you can either say, “I would rather not answer” or “I would like to invoke my Fifth Amendment right to remain silent.” You can also say “I do not wish to discuss anything further without a lawyer.”

Field Sobriety Tests

You do not have to perform field sobriety tests or provide breathalyzer samples. It’s important to note that failing to complete these tests may lead to license suspensions imposed by the South Carolina DMV; however, you can challenge these suspensions and apply for a route restricted license with the help of an attorney.

What Should I Say to the Police?

You may be wondering what you should say to the police during your interaction. Below is a list of helpful questions and statements you can use to guide the conversation:

  • “May I ask why you are stopping me?”
  • “I do not wish to discuss anything further without a lawyer.”
  • “Am I free to leave, or am I being detained?”
    • If you’re being detained, ask whether you are under arrest.
    • If you are not under arrest, politely inform the officer that you are leaving if you are not under arrest.

The best way to protect your rights and obtain the best possible outcome in your case is to work with an experienced criminal defense attorney. If you have any questions on the information discussed above or need an experienced criminal defense attorney, please call our office at (803) 888-2200.

About Cavanaugh & Thickens, LLC

Our criminal defense attorneys have years of experience defending a wide range of misdemeanor and felony criminal allegations including alcohol and underage crimes, DUI defense, white-collar crimes, drug & statewide grand jury cases, violent crimes, and more.

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Disclaimer: The opinions and ideas in this article are for informational purposes only and are not intended as legal advice. Each case is different and must be evaluated based on its own particular facts and merits.


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