The United States has a system of laws that provide you with rights and responsibilities. It is designed to protect and provide equal rights for everyone. There are federal (national), state, and local laws. Not knowing that a law exists or that a certain behavior is illegal, is not a defense and you can still be held responsible for not abiding by all regulations.
If you have a health or safety emergency, immediately dial 911. If you feel threatened or are suspicious about a behavior that you are observing, do not hesitate to call 911. If the police find there is no problem, you will not be in any type of trouble for having called for assistance. The police would rather be called and find no problem, than to not be called when there is a problem.
Virginia Tech will also address students with legal issues through Student Conduct process. Most students will not violate any laws while in the U.S. but here are some things to remember:
- If you are arrested or receive any type of “ticket,” you should immediately seek the assistance of Student Legal Services at 231-4720. They can help you to determine if you need to hire a lawyer and assist you in locating a lawyer with both immigration and criminal knowledge. Advice given by a police office or friend may not be accurate in your situation.
- Alcohol laws are enforced in Blacksburg. If you are going to drink alcohol in your private residence, a restaurant or bar, or at a party, it is important that you understand the laws that govern your actions. Individuals on student visas must also remember that an arrest for an alcohol issue can have very different consequences than a similar arrest for a U.S. citizen.
- Physical assault of another individual, including a disagreement with a spouse or partner that results in any type of physical contact like pushing or hitting, can result in legal charges.
- The role of a police officer may be different in the US than in your home country. Please follow the “etiquette rules” below:
- If you are approached by a police officer, please stand approximately 3 feet away and do not put your hands in your pockets. You should make eye contact with the officer. You should produce legal identification when asked. You should answer only those questions that you fully understand- you have the right to request a translator or lawyer before answering questions. You should keep your voice at a normal level of volume.
- If you are operating a motor vehicle and a police officer uses his lights and/or siren, you should slow down immediately and pull to the right side of the road at the next safe location. You and all passengers should sit quietly in your seats with your hands in clear view. Do not open the door of the car. The police officer will request information and you should provide the necessary information when it is requested of you.