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Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Arrests at Shields Library raise questions over students’ rights

Two suspects were searched and later arrested at Shields Library for possession of stolen property by UC Davis Police on  Oct. 26 at 9:30 p.m.

The UC Davis Police Department declined to comment further on the details of the case.

“It had nothing to do with our officers barging into the library and randomly searching people for no reason,” said Debra Svoboda, records clerk at the UC Davis Police Department.

California petty theft under Penal Code 488 PC, which the crime was filed as, pertains to the theft of an item or services that are of $950 of value or less. Penalties for the committing of a petty theft under Penal Code 488 can include six months in a county jail, three years under probation or $1,000 fine.

According to Shouse Law Group, if the suspect has no other theft-related convictions, and the item stolen was $50 or less, a California theft attorney may be able to reduce the charge to an infraction. This will then only require the payment of a $250 fine.

Donald Dudley, director of Student Judicial Affairs (SJA) at Davis, said that students are entitled to the same rights as others with regard to search and seizure.

“The UC Davis Police Department is no different than any other police department,”Dudley said. “SJA action cannot infringe on a student’s constitutional rights.”

In order to make arrests, police had to have “probable cause” and are not able to detain suspects without reasonable suspicion of guilt.

Gabriel “Jack” Chin, professor of law at the UC Davis School of Law, with a focus in criminal law and procedure, said police need to have reason to believe that a crime is being conducted, however many universities have a rule that the police can require anyone on the campus to show identification.

“Because the campuses are semi-public places, in some jurisdictions … if [someone] is causing trouble or committing crime … then they can search you,” he said.

In the event that the police do not have probable cause for a search, a search warrant or special consent would be required.

Students searched could not have objected to the search if they had probable cause.

“They can be searched whether they agreed to it or not,” Chin said .

In case of a dismissed charge, a California shoplifting defense attorney may be able to arrange the repayment of the value of the stolen merchandise, completed community service hours or the attendance of anti-theft classes.

Further information on the case can be found at the UC Davis Police Department’s online crime log.

MUNA SADEK can be reached at campus@theaggie.org.

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