Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Brierton v. DMV (Cal. Ct. App. - June 21, 2005)

Campus police officers apparently have the authority to perform arrests anywhere in California, not just on or near the university. Or at least that's what Justice Aaron (a former federal magistrate judge down here and a fellow HLS graduate) holds in this case, which involved a DUI arrest by an SDSU campus police officer.

The somewhat troubling thing about this holding is that Section 89560 of the Education Code states that campus police officers -- we called 'em the Campus Po' when I was an undergraduate -- "shall not exercise their power or authorities except [] at the headquarters or upon any campus of the California State University and in an area within one mile of the exterior boundaries of each campus. . . ." This command by the Legislature seems fairly meaningless under Justice Aaron's holding, and the brief concurrence by Justice Benke (a USD Law graduate) -- which attempts to rationalize this statute -- doesn't persuade me otherwise.

Admittedly, a contrary holding would also be a little troubling, since Section 830.2 states that campus police are among those peace officers "whose authority extends to any place in the state." So you've got two statutes that apparently conflict. But it seems at least plausible that Section 830.2 grants broad authority to campus police but Section 89560 states that this authority "shall not" be exercised anywhere other than on or near university grounds. Such an interpretation is arguably superior to one that would make Section 89560 a dead letter.

A difficult question of statutory interpretation.