Knock, knock, knock . . .on the other side of the door is your RA and the Police. Unfortunately, this happens everyday at Colleges and Universities across the country. What are a college students rights when facing a search of his dorm room?
First, college staff normally has the right to enter and search a student’s dorm room. Every student should be familiar with his Student Handbook and Residency Regulations. For example, at the University of Miami here in Coral Gables, Florida, the University Residency Regulations permit an ‘inspection’ at any time for a number of reasons, including checking for a violation of University Regulations or violation of law. This is limited to college staff only – not the police. The scope of the search or inspection is also not unlimited. This doesn’t mean that the college staff can open all your drawers and computers, etc. Read your school’s handbook and know your rights.
Next, the police have no special right to enter and search a dorm room. The same law that applies to a home applies to protect a student’s privacy in his dorm room. This means that the police normally need a warrant to enter your dorm room. Unless, the student gives them consent. College students are not required to voluntarily consent to a dorm room search by the police and can therefore refuse the police request to enter and search the dorm room.
When college staff and police show up together, the student has the right to demand that the police wait outside the dorm room and not permit their entry. Knowing these rights could save a college student from arrest. If you are the parent of a college student who was arrested or charged with a crime read all my tips for navigating the system specifically with reference to college students here.