The University of Nebraska-Lincoln is a drug-free campus, meaning drug usage or intent to use, drug possession and drug paraphernalia is prohibited and illegal. The Daily Nebraskan reached out to the UNL Police Department on what happens when a student might be in possession of drugs on campus.
When UNLPD receives a report of a student potentially possessing drugs, Marty Fehringer, assistant chief of UNLPD, said UNLPD officers will knock on the student’s door, talk to whoever is present and ask them if they would consent to a search.
In a lot of cases, Fehringer said people report to UNLPD because they smelled marijuana coming from a student’s room. If UNLPD officers smell marijuana, that can be used as probable cause and they would not necessarily need the student’s consent to conduct a search in the room.
The most common drug students possess is marijuana, and since marijuana has a pungent smell, it is a lot easier to detect, Fehringer said.
Fehringer said most people are very cooperative and consent to a search. If a student does not give consent for the officers to search their room and there isn’t probable cause, such as a smell or if the officers do not see any drugs or drug paraphernalia in plain view, then they will leave. The officers may still document it, but if there is no probable cause, then the investigation will end.
However, even if the room smells like marijuana, but the officers do not find any marijuana, other drugs or drug paraphernalia, then Fehringer said the officers would only document the situation.
If UNLPD officers do not find any drugs or drug paraphernalia, then Fehringer said officers will thank them for cooperating and that will be the end of it.
If UNLPD officers find something that looks like or could be drugs, then they will confiscate it to have it tested, Fehringer said. Most of the time, he said, UNLPD officers will send it to be tested at the state lab for confirmation before making an arrest.
Fehringer said the state lab has acquired new equipment that allows them to do more testing, but it can still be about four to six weeks until results come back.
Since the majority of people cooperate, the searches typically do not take that much time, Fehringer said. In fact, if a student is in possession of drugs, then Fehringer said they usually tell the officers where it is even before the officers start searching because the student feels like the officers will find the drugs anyway.
If a student is in possession of marijuana or drug paraphernalia, then it is an infraction and the officers will give them a ticket, Fehringer said. If a student is in possession of a more hardcore drug, such as cocaine, Fehringer said they will still probably not be arrested on the spot and the officers will send the sample to the state lab.
If the results come back positive, then UNLPD officers will get an arrest warrant and arrest the student, Fehringer said.