On-campus housing falls under Fourth Amendment

On-campus housing falls under Fourth Amendment

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Homes for sale in Manhattan Beach, California, are seen April 13, 2011. Recent census figures show the state is losing more Californians than it is attracting from other parts of the U.S. (Anne Cusack/Los Angeles Times/MCT)

In September of 2012, a Montana man was arrested and charged with felony trafficking after nearly two pounds of marijuana were found in the Taylor dormitory.

One of the apartment residents voluntarily let police in. Had residents not cooperated, law enforcement officials would have been forced to obtain a warrant to enter the dorm, a process that would have taken time.

“It depends on the judge and the prosecutor that’s available. There are too many variables so there is no way exactly to say how long that would take,” said Boise Police Lt. Rob Gallus.

Though Boise State dormitory residents are subject to campus policies that ensure adherence to state and federal law, occupants are still guaranteed the same rights under the constitution as those living off campus.

“From a police standpoint, we treat the dorms as we would a general residence outside the university,” Gallus said.

This means under the Fourth Amendment, police are not allowed to enter a residence on or off campus without probable cause or a warrant.

“We don’t have any additional powers as police officers because we are at the university,” Gallus said.

Police may enter a residence for a handful of reasons: consent from a resident, crime being committed in plain view or if a suspect has entered a private area while being pursued.

At the university level, resident advisors may enter Boise State dormitories with consent, during health and safety inspections or if there is a clear immediate threat to an occupants safety.

“When there are health and safety inspections, we try to provide at least 24 hours notice, maybe a little bit longer,” said Dean Kennedy, director of Housing and Residence Life.

University maintenance staff may also enter private dorm residences without express permission in extreme cases.

“If there is an emergency maintenance issue, we will key the door and take care of the situation, whether it is water, electric, whatever it may be,” Kennedy said.