When a student is referred to law enforcement in Florida, the situation can be unpredictable, and the rights and protections that would apply during a traditional arrest may or may not apply. It’s important to understand how this differs from an arrest away from school.
Referrals to law enforcement
A referral to law enforcement is not the same thing as an arrest, and most referrals do not lead to arrests. A referral is any kind of contact between a student and a police officer, security guard, school resource officer or any other school-associated law enforcement entity that might have a negative outcome from the involved student.
In a referral, students may be questioned about a potential crime, such as possession of drugs. Officers are not required to tell the student if they are a suspect, a witness or any other role, so it is easy for students to accidentally incriminate themselves. In terms of federal law, students in a referral do not have any Miranda rights. That means officers are not required to inform them that anything they say can and will be used against them.
The ambiguity and lack of federal guidelines give law enforcement more power in a school referral than in an arrest. That means students should be especially careful about what they tell an officer during a referral. There should be no expectation of Miranda rights, and officers will take note of anything a student voluntarily tells them.
Students should proceed with caution when dealing with a referral for those reasons. The normal expectations of rights during an arrest are generally not true under these conditions.