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College Student Rights in DC

If you are a college student living in a dorm or apartment on campus, you may be subject to a different set of rules than a normal citizen off campus. Below, a DC student defense lawyer discusses these differences and what you should know about them if you are a student. To learn more or begin planning your defense, call and schedule a consultation today.

Your Rights In a Criminal Trial vs. a University Hearing

You have many more rights when you are outside the university versus when you are on campus. If you are charged with a crime in any jurisdiction, town, city, or place in the United States, you have the right to an attorney and you have the right for that attorney to ask questions for you and make arguments for you.

The attorney in a criminal trial can also bring witnesses to court, they are not there to put you in the position where you have to testify or speak. You also have the Fourth Amendment right under the Constitution against having the police search you or your home unreasonably. You have none of those rights when you are on campus facing a student disciplinary hearing.

You give up rights when you agree to live on campus and you have most likely signed away your protections against unreasonable search of your room or your person.

What Are Your Rights Regarding Searches On Campus?

It is not that the university has the right to search the student’s dorm, it is that the student is typically forced to sign away their right to refuse a search in order to live on campus. Students sign a lease and that lease allows campus or regular police to come into their room and search it and their belongings.

Now, with respect to a vehicle, if the car is parked on campus that would depend on the location they are parking it on campus. You are basically waiving your rights by contract to Fourth Amendment protection.

How A Student Defense Lawyer Can Help

If you signed a living agreement it is difficult to raise typical Constitutional challenges to the search of the room as part of your defense. However, there are still defenses that a lawyer can raise for you.

For example, let us say drugs are found in the room. You can raise a defense based on what is called constructive possession, meaning that just because drugs are found in someone’s room does not mean that person is the only one with access to them.

You want an investigation to show, for example, that this is a room where six other people regularly spend time. A student’s roommate or student’s roommate’s girlfriend stay there all the time and she is the one who uses drugs all the time. That is a type of defense still viable even if the Constitutional protections are not there.

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