3 Legal Realities Every Utah College Student Should Understand

As summer winds down, many college students are preparing for the upcoming semester. If you’re one of them, and you are attending a school in Utah, you are choosing a great place. All the attorneys at Brown, Bradshaw & Moffat attended a university in the Beehive State.

Whether you have lived in Utah your whole life or you are attending from out of state, you will be subject to the same laws as everyone else in addition to school policies. Here are three legal issues every student should know about when they go to school in Utah.

Colleges and Universities Have the Power to Enforce Laws

If you violate a law on campus, you are in the jurisdiction of the school. Utah law defines institutions of higher education as “political subdivisions,” meaning the institution’s board has the authority to enforce the law.

Additionally, colleges and universities have the right to create their own police forces. The officers have the power to make arrests when someone violates a state or city law, and they can enforce school policies.

For example, if you break into someone’s dorm room with the intention of stealing, a campus police officer can arrest you for burglary. However, convicting and sentencing is handled by whichever courts preside over the area where the university is located.

Most Campuses Are Dry

The stereotypical college scene involves lots of drinking and partying. While that can still be part of your college experience, it is generally not allowed on campus. Most Utah schools are dry, meaning you can’t have alcohol on the property.

If you are over 21, and you violate these policies, you are only subject to discipline by the school. However, if you’re caught drinking on campus and are under 21, you can have your driving privileges suspended as stated in Utah law. 

Not all on-campus alcohol violations are handled by the legal system. For example, at the University of Utah, school police officers often refer students to the Dean of Students Office, where they will be disciplined. If they were caught drinking at their on-campus dorm, they are usually referred to a residential education coordinator. 

You may not face legal consequences, but it is always a possibility. To stay out of trouble, it’s a good idea to follow the rules anyway.

Trigger Warning: Utah Has Protections in Place For Sexual Assault Survivors

Utah law protects people who report a sexual assault. Let’s say you go to a party on a dry campus. You drink alcohol and become intoxicated. During this time, you witness a sexual assault. You are afraid to report the crime because you could get in trouble for violating school rules.

In this situation, you do not have to fear punishment if you report the sexual assault, and the school finds out that you were drinking. The university is prohibited from punishing a sexual assault witness or a sexual assault survivor who reports the crime.

Colleges and universities in Utah are also legally required to create a safety plan for survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking. The plan includes information about resources for the survivors, the survivor’s rights, and how the institution takes care of the situation. These plans are required to be posted on the school’s website and on campus.

It’s important to note that these laws only encompass what happens in public universities. Private schools like Brigham Young University (BYU) are not subject to the same laws. BYU has been under fire because the Honor Code Office — the department that enforces the school’s code of conduct — has investigated survivors of sexual assault for their own violations when they report the crime.

The school’s Title IX Office, which investigates sexual assault allegations, has addressed this issue by ensuring the only student who is reported to the Honor Code Office is the perpetrator. The victim’s information is kept confidential.

What To Do If You Are Accused of a Crime at School

If you are a student at a Utah college or university, and you are charged with any crime, the first thing you need to do is hire a great lawyer who understands the ins and outs of crimes commonly committed by college students.

The attorneys at Brown, Bradshaw & Moffat have more than 20 years of experience behind them. They have worked on all kinds of cases and helped many college students with their cases. They would love to help you as well.

For a free consultation, call (801) 532-5297.

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