The Virginia Court of Appeals Clarifies Jurisdiction of Campus Police Officers Acting Under a Concurrent Jurisdiction Order with Adjoining Locality

by Barry T. Meek
Associate General Counsel
University of Virginia

In Virginia, both public and private institutions of higher education can establish police departments.  See Va. Code §§ 23-232 & -232.1.  By statute, officers of such departments “exercise the powers and duties conferred by law upon police officers of cities, towns, or counties” on any property owned or controlled by the institution and on the streets, sidewalks, and highways, immediately adjacent thereto.  Va. Code §23-234.  Virginia law also authorizes campus police departments to enter into “mutual aid agreements” with adjacent political subdivisions and in conjunction with a local governing body to seek an order granting campus police officers “concurrent jurisdiction” with “police officers of the county, city, or town in which the institution, its satellite campuses, or other properties are located.”  Id.  Campus police officers also enjoy extended jurisdiction when in “close pursuit” of a person as provided in section 19.2-77.  Otherwise, campus police officers are not authorized to act outside their territorial jurisdiction.

More than fifteen years ago, in Hall v. Commonwealth, 12 Va. App. 559 (1990), the Virginia Court of Appeals construed the phrase “immediately adjacent” in section 23-234 describing the jurisdiction of campus police officers to mean exactly that:  immediately adjacent.  Thus, in Hall, even though campus police officers arrested Hall in the grassy median of a private parking lot directly across the street from the campus, the Court of Appeals held that “the arrest did not occur on property owned or controlled by the college or on a street, sidewalk or highway immediately adjacent thereto . . . [and, for that reason] the officers did not have authority to arrest Hall pursuant to Code §23-234(i).”  See also Commonwealth v. Borek, 68 Va. Cir. 323 (Charlottesville Cir. 2005) (holding that University of Virginia police officer did not have authority under section 23-234 to arrest Borek for driving under the influence in the City of Charlottesville).

In 2005, the University of Virginia and the City of Charlottesville acting pursuant to section 23-234(iv) petitioned the Charlottesville Circuit Court for an order granting University police officers concurrent jurisdiction with Charlottesville police officers in a designated area of the City.  On March 7, 2005, the Charlottesville Circuit Court entered an order granting University of Virginia police officers concurrent jurisdiction within the designated area.  In Boatwright v. Commonwealth, ___ Va. App. ___ (Record No. 1356-06-02 July 31, 2007), the Virginia Court of Appeals recently affirmed the scope of University police officers’ jurisdiction when acting pursuant to the Order establishing concurrent jurisdiction.  Importantly, the Court of Appeals also held that two statutes that extend the territorial jurisdiction of police officers of cities and counties apply equally to campus police officers acting pursuant to an order establishing concurrent jurisdiction.

In Boatwright, a University police officer observed Boatwright’s vehicle driving erratically in the City of Charlottesville.  The officer was within the designated area of the City covered by the order establishing concurrent jurisdiction for University police officers.  While still within the designated area of the City, the University police officer initiated a traffic stop.  “Although Boatwright obeyed the signal to pull over, he was approximately two hundred yards into Albemarle County when his vehicle came to a stop.”  Boatwright failed a series of field sobriety tests and was arrested.  After his arrest, Boatwright registered a 0.16 on his breath test.

“Boatwright moved to suppress the evidence obtained as a result of the stop, contending the stop was illegal because it occurred outside of Charlottesville [i.e., the designated area of concurrent jurisdiction], and thus beyond the officer’s territorial jurisdiction.”  The trial court denied the motion and Boatwright was convicted.  The Court of Appeals affirmed.

The Court of Appeals held that pursuant to the order establishing concurrent jurisdiction, University police officers enjoyed the same powers as Charlottesville police officers within the designated area of the City.  Moreover, like Charlottesville police officers, the jurisdiction of University police officers extended beyond the territorial limits of the designated area into Albemarle County pursuant to section 19.2-250(A) (stating that “the jurisdiction of the corporate authorities of each town or city, in criminal cases involving offenses against the Commonwealth, shall extend within the Commonwealth one mile beyond the corporate limits of such town or city”) and section 19.2-249 (providing that a “police officer shall have jurisdiction to make arrests and preserve the peace for [300 yards] on either side of the boundary line between such . . . city and county”).  Boatwright, Slip Op. at 4.

The decision of the Court of Appeals is significant.  Ordinarily, sections 19.2-249 and 19.2-250 do not extend the territorial jurisdiction of campus police officers beyond those limits stated in section 23-234 – i.e., property owned or controlled by the institution and streets, sidewalks, and highways immediately adjacent thereto.  See, e.g., Hall and Borek.  But when acting under the authority of an order granting concurrent jurisdiction, the Court of Appeals now has confirmed that the jurisdiction of campus police officers – like the jurisdiction of their city and county colleagues – extends “within the jurisdictional limits that the officer serves or within a statutorily prescribed distance from the jurisdictional limits” pursuant to sections 19.2-249 and 19.2-250.  Boatwright, Slip Op. at 3 (quoting Neiss v. Commonwealth, 16 Va. App. 807, 809 (1993)).

Disclaimer:  The content of the Virginia Police Legal Bulletin does not constitute legal advice, nor does it reflect the opinions or views of the Virginia Police Legal Advisors Committee.