Students Rights Violated When Officer Opens Dorm with RA Key

Fade ID’s, alcohol in underage rooms and small amounts of marijuana are items that are fairly common on a New Jersey college campus or any college campus for that matter. College is a time where minor students are finally out from under their parents’ watchful eye and bound to make some mistakes. Underage college students especially experience with alcohol — a substance that will be legal for them to consume in only a matter of a year, a month or even a week.

As much as parents are aware that their kids may be trying these things, law enforcement officers are as well. A lot of campus programs even focus on drug and alcohol education, but it does not mean that rights of the students who participate in this behavior can be violated. When officers do not follow the rules that regulate search and seizure, any evidence obtained as a result cannot be used against them.

A search of a student’s college campus this week led to the dismissal of all charges only hours after the arrest. It was determined that the officer in charge had gained illegal entry into the student’s dorm room, violating the student’s rights. According to the report, an RA on the student’s floor called the police to report smelling marijuana near a dorm room.

When the officer arrived, he located the room and used a campus key to open the door without the knowledge of the students inside. He then asked the students for their consent to search the room and found a small amount of marijuana and what appeared to be a homemade smoking pipe. When the student took his ID out of his wallet, the officer noticed a second one and determined that it was a false ID. The student admitted to possession of both items and was arrested and charged with three counts of possession for the items.

The location of this incident is not what is important, it is the fact that the student took the opportunity to enforce his rights. Often, a student may simply plead guilty to the charges without questioning them. Discussing any arrest — even based on what may seem like minor offenses — with an experienced defense attorney can literally be a matter of dismissal or sentencing.

Source: Red and Black, “Student’s charges of possession of marijuana and others dropped after police enter room without consent,” Megan Ernst, April 25, 2012

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