Off Campus Handbook

Click Here:SAOHandbook to download a copy of the SAO Off-Campus Guide


The contents of this guide are intended to provide you with valuable insight on legal issues related to off-campus living. Knowing your rights is essential. From house raids and search warrants to noise violations and alcohol citations, the information contained within these pages, if followed correctly, will help to keep you out of trouble. All information in this handbook has been peer-reviewed by an attorney.

If at any time you have a problem either on or off campus, the Student Advocacy Organization (SAO) will be there to help. Contacting the SAO as soon as a conflict arises is extremely important. With many cases, timing is everything. The quicker you notify the SAO of an issue, the sooner the SAO’s judicial advisors can help you to determine the best course of action and work with you toward securing a positive resolution.


Quick Facts……………………………………………………………………………………………….3
Office of Student Conduct: Off-campus…………………………………………………..4
Search Warrants……………..……………………………………………………………………….5
How to Keep the Cops Out of Your House……………………………………………….6
Noise Violations………………………………………………………………………………………..7
RI Alcohol Laws………………………………………………………………………………………..8
What To Do If You Are Arrested………………………………………………………..…….9
Police Questioning……………………………………………………………………………..……10
Criminal Charges and Penalties………………………………………………………………11
The SAO and Your Court Date………………………………………………………………..12

Quick Facts

The purpose of this page is to briefly highlight a few penalties and quick facts regarding some common laws and violations that impact college students. For more complete, in-depth information about each item, reference the sections in the pages that follow.

-Penalty: 6-months to a 1-year of probation or a “filing” (see page 9)
-Convictions of these charges can be expunged from your criminal record

-Penalty: jail time, suspended sentence, probation, or “diversion program”
-Convictions of these charges may be eligible for expungement after 10 years

*Other than serious cases, criminal records from another state usually will not impact your proceedings. Always give your local address so your record in your home state won’t be checked.

Common charges:

Driving in possession of an open container
-Keep any open containers in the trunk of your car to prevent violating this law
-Penalty: First offense $200 fine, possible loss of license 3-6 months
Second or subsequent offense $500 fine, loss of license 6-months to 1-year

Driving Under the Influence
-If stopped, never admit to drinking and do not consent to ANY test (field or breath)
-Penalty: First offense: 3 month loss of license, $500 fine

Possession of Marijuana
-Penalty: 6-months to a 1-year of probation or a “filing”

Manufacturing/Delivery of Alcohol
-The charge usually used if your house is raided and police observe underage drinking
-Penalty: $200 fine

Noise violations
-Penalty: First offense $200 Fine, Second or subsequent offense $300 fine

Keep The Cops Out Of Your House
1)    Never consent to a search unless they present a warrant. Don’t even answer the door.
2)    Keep people you are unfamiliar with out of your house. Check student IDs at the door.
3)    Make sure that all doors remain closed, blinds stay shut, and people don’t loiter outside.
4)    Sell cups inside your house, where people who are outside cannot see it.

Office of Student Conduct: Off-campus

If a student has contact with the police off-campus, he/she can be sanctioned by the College as well. The Student Handbook states that “the College may initiate disciplinary proceedings against a student regardless of pending civil or criminal action involving the same or a different set of factual circumstances. College disciplinary action may proceed before, simultaneous with, or after external investigative or judicial action, and the College is not bound or impeded by any action taken by external authorities.”

In other words, even if you are found not guilty in the court system, the Office of Student Conduct can still find you guilty and render disciplinary sanctions against you.

The Deans of the Office of Student Conduct are grossly inexperienced when it comes to legal matters. While the previous Dean of Student Conduct was an attorney, the recent lack of properly qualified personnel has come primarily to the detriment of the students who must pass through the OSC’s doors. If administrators who assume quasi-judicial roles without any modicum of legal knowledge deal with legal situations, it is the student who will undoubtedly suffer. Therefore, it is essential that any student facing charges off-campus contact the SAO or notify their attorney immediately in order to help secure a positive result with the College.

The SAO has helped 8 students with proceedings at District Court stemming from incidents involving the Providence Police. Members of the SAO have been effective in working to ensure that the school did not find out about some of these charges.

Search Warrants

The police need to obtain a search warrant if they want to search your house. Only a judge or magistrate has the authority to issue search warrant, and will do so only when an officer can provide the probable cause that a search is necessary. With that being said, there are a few exceptions when search warrants may not be required.

The following are grounds that may allow police to conduct a warrantless search:

**A) Consent
Police are allowed to conduct a search if the person(s) living on the property freely and voluntarily agrees to a search. For example, if the police arrived at your house and ask if they can “come inside for a minute” or “look around.” Never allow the police to come into your house unless they present a warrant. Even if you believe you have nothing to hide, you should not consent to a search. You can only hurt yourself or your case by consenting. You are not required to consent to any police searches nor do police officers have to warn you that you have a right to refuse a search. If the police obtain your consent through trickery or coercion, the consent does not validate a search.
* A landlord lacks the authority to consent to a search of leased properties
* If there are multiple residents, courts have ruled that one resident has
no power to consent to a search of areas controlled by other residents

B) Exigent or Emergency Circumstances
The police may be authorized to make a warrantless search when the time it would take to get a warrant would jeopardize public safety or lead to loss of important evidence. In these circumstances, their duty to protect the people and preserve evidence outweighs the requirement of a warrant. However, one of the two criteria must be met in order to make the warrantless search legal. For example, in a case of safety, if an officer is near your property and hears screams for help coming from inside. For example, in a case of loss of evidence, if police are making a drug arrest and hear a suspect call to someone in a house to flush the drugs down the toilet. Again, these criteria need to be met; the mere suspicion that a crime is occurring does not legally give the officer the right to search your house.

C) Incident to Arrest
Police have a right to search a person and his/her immediate surroundings during an arrest. Therefore, if someone is being arrested in their home, the immediate area can be searched. If you are arrested, stand in one place to limit the searchable area.

D) Plain View
Police do not need a warrant to search and seize contraband or evidence that is in “plain view.” For example, if you open your door to speak with an officer and he observes a bag of marijuana on the kitchen table.

How to Keep the Cops Out of Your House

Whether you are having a house party or the police arrive at your house unexpectedly, follow these steps to decrease your chance of getting in trouble.

I)    Do not open the door if police knock, even if they are out there banging for an hour. The police cannot come into your house without a warrant and there is no law that requires you to talk with them. The police can only break down the door if they are certain that felonious activity is occurring inside your house, or that someone is facing imminent danger, which in your case is most likely not going to happen.

II)    If you do open the door and speak with officers and they inquire about coming inside, ask to see a warrant. Do not consent to any search or let them inside unless they have a warrant. Since only a judge or magistrate can issue a warrant, chances are the police will not be able to get a warrant that quickly at midnight on a Friday night. Take this as your time to cease any unfavorable activity in the event that they come back with one.

III)    Do not let anyone in your house that you are not familiar with. Last year, the Providence Police were able to initiate raids on houses because they sent undercover officers into houses posing as students. Once the undercover officers were inside, they were able to witness illegal activity, mainly underage drinking and the selling of cups (selling goods requires a peddlers license), which established probable cause.        *Preventing this is easy.
1.    If you have a party, simply check PC or other student IDs at the door, which     will keep out any unwanted guests.
2.    If you are going to sell cups, sell them inside out of the plain sight of any windows or doors.
3.    Be sure that all doors remain closed, blinds on windows stay shut, and people do not loiter in your yard.

IV)    Should the police forcibly enter your house, do not interfere with the officers. Rather, stand aside and let them proceed and allow a court to decide later whether their actions were legal. Your attorney will be able to argue that the police had no right to enter the house to help get the charges dismissed. Remain compliant and keep your mouth shut. Do not try to physically prevent officers from coming in or exhibit disorderly behavior. You will be arrested. Any wrongdoing on your part will weaken your case and the strength of your defense.

Remember, warrants that are not necessary will not hold up in court. Even if it gets to the point where you are cited, or possibly arrested, as long as you remain calm and orderly, a good attorney will be able to secure a favorable result. By knowing your rights you will decrease your chance of having a problem. Do not hesitate to call the SAO line if needed.

Noise Violations

The City of Providence has a policy, established in Article III of the Providence Code of Ordinances titled “Noise Control,” that prohibits unnecessary, excessive and annoying noise from any source. Any person, including a police officer, may make a noise complaint against your residence.

Noise relevant to off-campus living is broken into two categories: Ambient noise which is all encompassing noise associated with a given environment and equipment noise which is noise produced by any type of equipment, machinery, or everyday appliances such as televisions, stereos, and similar devices.

Violation Criteria
Noise is considered unnecessary, excessive, or offensive if the level exceeds 5 decibels (dBA) of the limit for a period of five minutes. The following limits are as follows:    Noise levels that exceed 50 dBA during the hours of 8pm – 7am
Noise levels that exceed 55 dBA during the hours of 7am – 8pm
**50-55 dBA is about the equivalent of a loud conversation, making the enforcement of noise violations easy for police.  With that being said, the noise must be measured at the nearest property line or be audible to a person at a distance of 200 feet from the source. Therefore, they are not measuring noise right outside your door which gives you some leeway.

A citation for a noise violation is punishable by a fine of not more than $500. However, if you do not contest the citation and admit to the noise violation, the penalties are as follows:
First offense: $200
Second and subsequent offense: $300

What to do:
o    Sound-proof your residence. If you anticipate exhibiting higher levels of noise, keep your windows and doors shut and make every effort to reduce the flow of sound outside into the surrounding area.
o    Be compliant. If any members of the Providence Police visit your house, be respectful and keep your mouth shut. Assure them that you will make certain that the volume is minimized promptly.
o    Know the ordinance. In the event that the police threaten to cite you for violating the ordinance, respectfully assert that you are not violating the ordinance and the grounds that support why you are not in violation. By knowing your rights concerning noise violations, you may decrease the chance of getting a citation.
o    Contact the SAO. If you plan on having a party or are suspect that you will be receiving a noise violation, call SAO at (401) 715-2559. The SAO has a decibel meter that you may borrow and if one of our advisers is nearby, he/she may be able to come to your house to officially measure the level of noise.

RI Alcohol Laws

Furnishing/Procurement of alcohol to a minor
-It is unlawful to purchase alcohol with the intent to sell or deliver it         to them, therefore permitting them to drink it
-RI law stipulates that even if the minor misrepresented his/her age to be 21, it     still is not a valid defense against this charge
-With that being said, the prosecution would have to prove that they witnessed the transaction and that you “knowingly     furnished” it to someone who was underage
Penalty: $350-$1000 fine

Manufacture/Delivery of alcohol
-This is the charge usually used if your house is raided and police observe underage drinking. The reason students  would receive this charge would be because the police did not obtain sufficient proof to charge you with the procurement charge above, which is obviously much more serious.
-Penalty: $200 fine
*The fine may vary per case and depending on the judge

Possession of alcohol by an underage person
-Penalty: $150 fine
-This will be wiped off of your criminal record immediately upon payment

Driving in possession of an open container
-Keep any open containers in the trunk of your car to prevent a violation
-Penalty: First offense $200 fine, possible loss of license 3-6 months
Second or subsequent offense $500 fine, loss of license 6-months to 1-year

Selling cups
-In Rhode Island, you need a peddlers license to sell goods on public property    and a Tax ID to sell goods on private property. While you get around the charge     of selling alcohol without a license, primarily because you are just selling the cup     and not the booze, you still can be held accountable for selling something without     proper permission. Therefore, just sell the cups inside where no one can witness it.

The alcohol laws in Rhode Island are primarily in place so the state can make money. There is a good chance that the court may not want to be bogged down with these cases due to the enormous caseload each year. When charged with any of these offenses, they are basically looking for you to just pay a hefty fine and then dismiss the charge so it doesn’t clog up the court and waste a significant amount of time and resources to prosecute.

Police Questioning

NEVER answer any questions that a police officer may ask you. You are under no obligation to submit to random questioning or to go to the station to speak with the police without a warrant. The only information you are required to give police is identification information such as your name and date of birth. If the police do have a warrant, you will be arrested, but even once taken in, do not answer questions. Anything you say to a police officer will be used against you, regardless of whether there is a physical record (either written or recorded) of the conversation.

Police officers frequently use intimidation and coercion as tactics to get information out of you. DO NOT fall for this trap. If they have enough to arrest you, then you are already in trouble anyways. Saying anything further will only hurt your case. If they do not have a warrant for your arrest, you are free to go at your own will.

If the police tell you that they won’t charge you if you cooperate or that they will help you out, or go easy on you, do not believe them. Once you tell them what they want to hear, they have successfully obtained the information needed to convict you. The prosecutor determines who is cut a break, not a police officer.

The police do not have to inform you or read you your rights. You can always inform police officers that you wish to speak with an attorney before answering any questions. If you are in custody, the questioning must stop and you will be provided with the opportunity to speak with an attorney. After a reasonable amount of time, police officers may return and begin to ask you questions again. If you have not spoken with an attorney, you may continue to refuse to answer questions until such time as you have obtained legal assistance.

The SAO has assisted students in cases where the Providence Police have threatened students by telling them things like “we are going to get you kicked out of PC for this” and “we are going to send a letter to your dean.” Your dealings with police can be brought to the attention of the College, but anything the police say has no bearing on your proceedings. Even if police were to communicate to you that if you cooperate with them they won’t tell the school, or they will tell the school that you are helpful, do not listen to this. Administrators at PC have the discretion on how they will handle a situation involving an off campus matter, not the police.

What To Do If You Are Arrested

1)    Don’t Talk. Do not say a word to the officer(s) other than giving your identification information. Anything you say will be used against you and will hurt your case. Say only, “I want to talk to a lawyer.” If the police continue to question you, do not answer. Remember, it’s in the police officers’ best interest to get you to incriminate yourself. Keep your mouth shut; there will be plenty of time to talk later.

2)    Don’t Resist Arrest. Even if you believe you are innocent, you will be arrested anyway, and if you resist, then you’ll have the additional charge of Resisting Arrest. Additionally, the police are more likely to hurt people who resist arrest.

3)    Don’t Believe the Police. It is perfectly legal for the police to lie to get you to make an admission. The police can for example, separate two friends and tell one that the other spilled the beans about what happened. Police and detectives may also state that “it will be easier” to talk now or may threaten to get you in trouble at PC. DO NOT BELIEVE ANY OF THIS. It will only be easier for the police to prove their case if they get you to talk! It is your constitutional right to invoke your right to remain silent.

4)    Don’t Talk Back. Do not act defiant or talk about filing complaints. You do not want the police to retaliate against you while you’re in their custody.

5)    Again, Don’t Say a Word. It is incredible how many people feel that they can convince the arresting officer, a booking officer or a detective that they are not guilty. Your case is not decided by the police. They have no affect on your records. Wait to speak to your lawyer! The courts give enormous weight to “confessions” during this stage.

6)    Be Aware. Remember the names and badge numbers of the police who arrested you or deal with you at the police station. Pay attention to your surroundings and remember the exact words of everything that is said to you.

Follow these simple rules conscientiously and many of your rights will remain intact. Regardless of how nervous, scared or drunk you are, THESE RULES ARE VERY IMPORTANT, and will help you tremendously in the short and long run.

Criminal Charges and Penalties

Below you can find the penalties for various violations, misdemeanors, and felonies as they correspond to Rhode Island law. When it comes to sentencing for these charges, the penalty usually depends on the judge that presides over your hearing. For example, some judges may give you penalty A, some may give you penalty B, and some may give you a combination of or both of penalties A and B. Due to these inconsistencies, your sentence may depend on the judge that presides over your proceeding.

Alternative sentences for crimes in Rhode Island include “filings” and the “diversion program.” If convicted of a misdemeanor, you may receive a “filing” which basically means that if you stay out of trouble for one year without incident, the court drops the charges being brought against you. While District Court judges may grant you a filing for a misdemeanor, Superior Court Judges can sentence you to complete the “diversion program” instead of the harsher penalties that accompany felonies such as prison time and probation. The diversion program consists of things such as community service, counseling, treatment programs and monetary, fines.

Violations are not considered “crimes” in the ordinary use of that word and are usually relatively trivial. Violations can be punished only by a fine of not more than $500 and include charges such as possession of alcohol while underage.

Misdemeanors include possession of marijuana, simple assault, vandalism, driving under the influence, public intoxication, indecent exposure, and shoplifting. The penalty for one of these charges is either A) 1 year of probation or B) a 1 year filing. Two exceptions to these sentences are disorderly conduct and trespassing, which carry penalties of A) 6 months probation or B) a 1 year filing. Monetary fines and court costs that may be tacked on to the sentence are varying but may also be included. Convictions of misdemeanors can be expunged from your criminal record after 5 years. However, if you receive a filing, the charge will automatically be removed from your record after the one year

Felonies include possession of any drug (adderoll, cocaine, percocets), a second offense possession of marijuana, felony assault, selling or delivering drugs, sexual assault, robbery, and most crimes involving damages or a sum of money that exceeds $500. The penalties for felonies are more wide ranging than misdemeanors. For charges likely to be faced by college students, the penalties usually would include A) 18months-3 year suspended sentence (meaning you do not do jail time, but if you get arrested again, you may have to actually serve the remaining time) B) multiple years of probation or C) the diversion program. A conviction of a felony in Rhode Island may be eligible for expungement after 10 years.

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