Know Your Rights: School police officer clarifies Kansas rules, regulations on illegal behaviors for teens

Maddie Jewett, Features Editor

It’s the typical Saturday night.
You put on your new crop top shirt and favorite pair of jeans.
Applying your makeup takes an extra five minutes, as you will likely see the boy you’ve been crushing on since freshman year.
9 p.m.
You hear your friend’s car pull into the driveway, and the music is blasting a little more loudly than you would have hoped considering your parents are awake in the living room.
You yell goodbye as you rush out the door, anticipation growing.
Your friend pulls up to the party and parks down the street a little ways.
The two of you walk in.
The party has already started, and there is plenty of alcohol for everyone there.
You are not drinking, but the people around you are beginning to get extremely intoxicated.
The night progresses, and more and more people show up to the party.
This means more and more cars are parking all around the house.
First case of reasonable suspicion.
Everyone is dancing around and screaming.
The iPod speakers are booming with the newest hits.
Second case of reasonable suspicion.
As the party continues, a concerned neighbor looks out his window after hearing a great deal of commotion next door.
After seeing what seems to be hundreds of cars parked all along the street, he decides a quick call to the police department couldn’t hurt.
The party goes on.
The cops pull up to the house and quietly get out of their car.
They walk around the house looking for any signs of illegal activity, but none are found.
They knock on the door of the house, just waiting for someone to answer.
Downstairs, dozens of teenagers await what seems to be one of the worst nights of their lives.

Q&A with School Resources Officer Dennis Randall
Question: What should you do if you’re at a party and the cops show up?
Answer: “First of all, be honest. If you take off running, and you get caught, then you’ve compounded the circumstances. But if you’re there, and you haven’t been doing anything, and you’re respectful, then they may believe you. The old adage is if you’re at a party and there’s alcohol there, technically everyone at that party under the age of 21 can be charged with a [Minor in Possession]. Does it happen a lot? No, because the officers are going to look at each individual circumstance. In my humble opinion, if you go to a party and there’s alcohol there, you need to leave. Don’t stay there. Do not put yourself at risk.”

Q: What happens if you run from a cop?
A: “It’s considered resisting arrest, and it just compounds your circumstances. If you hadn’t done anything wrong, then why are you running? You can get resisting arrest, disorderly conduct, disturbing the peace. Plus, you’re still going to get an MIP even if you hadn’t been drinking.”

Q: What happens if you’re at a party and you get caught drinking?
A: “You’re going to get charged with MIP. In Johnson County, there are several different consequences. You could get put into an alcohol program. This is for a first time offense, and if you are cooperative and show lots of remorse, you will get put in this alcohol program. You go to classes, and you go through different programs that Johnson County has. After you complete that successfully, [the charge] has been removed [from your record] like it never happened. Johnson County really tries to help their young people. However, each [offense] is more restrictive to you as an individual. You could have a curfew, and it makes your parents pretty responsible for you.”

Q: If you’re at a party and you haven’t been drinking, what would you suggest a teenager do?
A: “Don’t take off running. Be respectful to the police officer. Say, ‘Hey, I wasn’t drinking. I was just here at the party.’ Chances are you may not get charged with MIP. However, you may get charged with MIP through association because you’re somewhere you shouldn’t have been.”

Q: Are police officers required to give you a breathalyzer if you request one?
A: “Police officers don’t have to give you a breathalyzer for an MIP. The only time a police officer is required to use a breathalyzer is for a DUI. So, if you’re at a party, they don’t have to give you a breathalyzer if you ask for one. If you look at it from our point of view as police officers, if you’re at a party and there’s 50 kids there, am I going to give all 50 kids breathalyzers? The chances are it is not going to happen.”

Q: If your car is parked outside of a house that is having a party and the cops see your license plate number, will they track you down?
A: “It’s a possibility, but just because your car is parked out on the street where there is a party doesn’t necessarily mean [you were involved]. Now, if they bust the party, and they look for everybody, and they find out who is who, and you took off running, then they’re going to find out who the vehicle owner is and call the vehicle owner.”

Q: What are the rules for a cop entering a party?
A: “Whenever we’re working the street, [we need] probable cause. Now, if we get a call from the neighbors about a noise complaint, and we pull up and hear people in the house and knock on the door, if no one answers, we can’t come in. But, if we get called the second time and go there the second time, that’s a whole different thing — the reasonable suspicion has gone up. If we see an illegal activity, that brings our probable cause way up. You have to understand that with Kansas having the law about hosting, if you have a party at your house, not only are you putting yourself at risk, but you’re also putting your parents at risk.”

Q: What’s the difference between probable cause and reasonable suspicion?
A: “Probable cause is something that’s very highly probable that it’s going to happen. So, at school here, [Principal Scott] Bacon only needs to have reasonable suspicion that something illegal is happening. If an anonymous source comes up to him and says, ‘Jimmy Joe Bob has illegal drugs in his locker,’ that’s reasonable enough suspicion for Mr. Bacon to go look in that locker. But it’s not probable cause for me to look in his locker. Police officers have to operate on probable cause which is a higher level of evidence.”

Q: If the parent knows that kids are drinking at their house and the cops show up and bust the party, what happens to the parents?
A: “The parents would be possibly charged with hosting because if they acknowledge that illegal activity is going on, they are responsible for their own house.”

Q: What if the parents don’t know there is a party going on at their house?
A: “The parent still could have some consequences because you have to supervise your kids. They could get [a] contributing [charge]. However, unless it can be proven that they knew you had a party, probably nothing will happen to them.”