Generally speaking, dorm rooms are covered by the 4th Amendment. Even though the school owns the property, students have a right to privacy in those rooms. Police cannot just barge in and search them for no reason, and neither can university officials.
That being said, there are a few situations in which a search can be carried out without a warrant. These are as follows:
- If there is an imminent risk that someone is going to be harmed. In these cases, police say that it’s not possible to get a warrant in time, as the person could be harmed before the warrant is given out, and carrying out the search in advance is the only way to keep everyone safe.
- A search that goes along with a lawful arrest. This comes into play when a student is being arrested for something else and police search the room and come up with unrelated evidence of other crimes.
- A search conducted when something illegal is in plain view. If the police are talking to a student from the hall and see illegal drugs on a desk, for example, they can come in and search the room.
- A search carried out after consent is given. For those with roommates, it’s very important to note that a roommate can give consent to search the room if he or she is the only one there. Police can then search that person’s items and the shared areas.
If you’re facing charges and you think an illegal search of your dorm was carried out, make sure you know the legal options you have in Florida.
Source: The Catholic University of America, "Whose room is it anyway? Lawful entry and search of student dormitory rooms," accessed April 20, 2016