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Davis, California

Monday, February 26, 2024

Column: Watts Legal

Question: “If I live in a private residence and park there with a private permit, does TAPS have the authority to ticket me for parking?”

Answer: Law enforcement agencies have limited jurisdiction. Sometimes the restrictions on jurisdiction are legal: The FBI enforces only federal laws, not state laws, for example. Sometimes the restrictions are territorial: The CIA can’t assassinate people with drones within the borders of the United States. And sometimes the restrictions govern the types of people against whom the laws can be enforced: The Sacramento police department can’t fly to New York and start arresting people.

Even seemingly omniscient agencies have their limits. The National Security Administration, or NSA, isn’t supposed to spy on domestic communications (though the recent leaks from government contractor Edward Snowden exposed that as more of an aspirational limitation than one set in stone).

Like the CIA, UC Davis’ Transportation and Parking Services can enforce laws only within specific territory. TAPS outlines this on their website. The UC Davis Medical Center, located in Sacramento, helpfully explains that the “‘B’ permit that is posted on signs on the streets is a residential City of Sacramento ‘B’ permit and is enforced by the City for compliance.” Of course, parking on those city streets removes you from their jurisdiction, but also from their protection. TAPS reminds visitors that “Parking on the streets also places your vehicle at greater risk of vandalism and theft as our enforcement staff do not patrol those areas.”

More clues to TAPS’ jurisdiction are found in the UC Davis Traffic and Parking Code, which was “adopted for the purpose of promoting safe and orderly movement of traffic within the boundaries of the University of California, Davis Campus, the University of California, Davis Medical Center (UCDMC), Sacramento, or other grounds or properties owned, operated or controlled by The Regents of the University of California and administered by the Davis Campus, (all hereinafter referred to as the University), and for the safe and orderly parking of vehicles and bicycles thereon.”

In short, if the University doesn’t control the property, TAPS has no power there. I’m assuming your parking complex is truly private, and not some kind of university-private hybrid. Unless the Regents control your apartment’s parking lot, you shouldn’t get a TAPS citation. TAPS has a map on its website showing its jurisdiction around Davis: taps.ucdavis.edu/sites/taps.ucdavis.edu/files/attachments/parking_map.pdf

Question: “After an unfortunate event in one of the UC Davis on campus housing units, my roommate and I got in trouble for being at a neighbor’s house and being too loud past the quiet hour. Because there was alcohol present, each guest was referred to the ‘conduct coordinator.’ Although both my roommate and I did not drink, we got a formal warning and were told we had to attend an Alcohol Education Seminar. When we got the email there was a link regarding a survey:

‘Please complete our baseline survey by using the following survey invitation link. You must complete your survey by ____’

The survey was regarding drug and alcohol consumption and changed which seminar you had to attend based on your answers. My roommate, for example, answered a question regarding marijuana and now has to attend a different seminar. My question has to do with the legality of forced participation in the survey. I thought all experimental participants must be voluntary, including surveys and experiments alike.”

– Megan V., Davis, CA

Answer: You’re correct that universities receiving federal funds must comply with regulations issued by the federal Office of Human Research Protection. Those regulations generally require informed consent from humans participating in research studies. But what you’re describing does not necessarily sound like research. I’d have to see the full survey, but it sounds like this survey isn’t used for research, but for determining the appropriate way to punish a particular student. Although it bears resemblance to an experimental survey, so does a lot of UC Davis coursework. Think of a multiple-choice final exam or a math placement test. They’re “surveys” to determine whether you get a degree.

It also sounds like this survey, if used for research, might be intended to determine which of these alternative substance abuse programs is most effective in preventing subsequent offenses. Section 46.101(b) of the Code of Federal Regulations specifically allows surveys used in educational settings, if they’re used to gauge the effectiveness of certain educational programs. Anonymous surveys are also generally fine.

However, these surveys are not exempt from the informed consent requirement if “any disclosure of the human subjects’ responses outside the research could reasonably place the subjects at risk of criminal or civil liability or be damaging to the subjects’ financial standing, employability, or reputation.” This is where the University might have a problem.

Universities don’t always follow the law (see Pepper Spray Cop, 2010), so it’s possible that they’re conducting an illegal research survey without students’ consent. Since they’re asking students about illegal activity, they’re definitely in a gray area.


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