College Roommates and Constructive Possession – How Shared Accommodation Can Lead to Legal Trouble for Students

July 28, 2023 by Seppi Esfandi in Rights  Special Report  
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The Company You Keep..

Being an undergraduate student, having student housing is crucial and indispensable. Living in a dormitory or student apartment as a university community member offers the opportunity to forge new friendships, foster independence, and relish liberation. Undergraduate students, especially first-year students, often find college life incredibly exciting. However, numerous students encounter code of conduct infractions due to events that take place within their dormitories and living areas on campus.

When a roommate is reliable and behaves appropriately, this living situation can be highly successful. However, there may come a time when you find yourself residing with an individual who tends to become involved in legal troubles. Furthermore, if said individual is involved in drug dealing, you may find yourself entangled in their unlawful actions.

Consequently, what could be the extent of your legal liability if your roommate is apprehended for the sale of illicit substances from your jointly occupied residence? There is a greater extent to it than you might be aware of. You must understand that even if you were not directly engaged in selling or consuming drugs, you may still be held accountable for the crime.

Suppose you and your roommate are both apprehended. In that case, there is a possibility that you may face charges under the concept of “constructive possession,” indicating that your involvement can be inferred due to your influence over the space where the drugs were found. Put simply, if the drugs are discovered scattered in the living room or any shared space instead of being securely stored in your roommate’s bedroom or safe space, you could find yourself involved.

Similarly, suppose you engage in any action to assist your roommate in concealing the narcotics from the authorities. In that case, you may face charges for participating in a criminal plot to distribute drugs. Therefore, from a legal perspective, it is advisable to relocate and distance yourself from the current living arrangement to enhance your confidence. Regardless of the decision you make, it is essential to prioritize your safety.

You must begin constructing a robust defense promptly if you were arrested for drug-related allegations due to your roommate’s or cohabitant’s actions. A drug crimes attorney with ample experience can provide valuable assistance in safeguarding your rights and offering advice tailored to your unique situation, thereby instilling greater confidence in your actions.

Students who have illegal drugs on campus may face state criminal charges. Being found guilty of drug possession can significantly impact your future in the following ways:

  • A loss of eligibility for federal student loans.
  • Limited employment.
  • Having trouble getting accepted to graduate school.

The issue of residing on campus and its implications on individual privacy rights

College students residing in on-campus accommodations experience a distinct absence of privacy entitlements. Due to the fact that the school holds ownership over the dormitories and other accommodations provided to students, your entitlement to privacy is significantly reduced compared to individuals residing in privately owned residences. Educational authorities, such as a resident advisor or campus police, possess the authority to conduct a search within your dormitory premises, irrespective of your consent.

The dormitory rental agreement ought to delineate the circumstances and reasons under which campus authorities may access your room; however, it is customary for most agreements to declare that unscheduled inspections and searches are regular procedures implemented by the campus administration. In most instances, school authorities possess the jurisdiction to examine the room visually; however, they do not possess the authority to explore your closets or drawers unless such permission was explicitly granted in the rental agreement.

Potential Outcomes

Although you possess the right to deny police access to your dormitory, any illicit substances discovered by campus authorities can still be employed as evidence to implicate you in breaching the terms of the campus housing agreement. Furthermore, students confront criminal charges and encounter disciplinary measures imposed by the university. Possible consequences may encompass suspension or expulsion, deprivation of on-campus accommodation, and placement on disciplinary probation. In addition, academic disciplinary measures risk the availability of scholarships and financial aid grants.

It is vital to comprehend the potential ramifications arising from the search if one’s dormitory room has been subject to search. Having knowledge of the repercussions and potential evidence that may be utilized against you can assist in constructing a robust defense strategy. Ensure that your future trajectory remains unaffected by refraining from allowing a mere routine search of your dorm room to derail your plans.

Need an Attorney? CALL NOW: 310-274-6529

Seppi Esfandi is an Expert Attorney who has over 21 years of practice defending a variety of cases.

When Can The Police Search Your Property?
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FURTHER READING: https://www.buzzfeed.com/salimahmccullough/college-roommate-horror-stories

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Lara S.
December 3, 2019
Seppi had my case reduced to just an infraction, and thanks to him I was able to keep my job. Jorge was extremely helpful too, the reason I went with this law firm. Overall pleased.

How to Win Your Case

We cannot stress enough that you read, understand and follow these 10 basic rules if you are criminally charged or under investigation:

  1. Don’t ever talk to the police
  2. Do not discuss your case with anyone
  3. Everything you tell your lawyer is confidential
  4. Tell police you need to contact your attorney
  5. Never consent to any search by the police
  6. If the police knock on your door, don't answer!
  7. Realize the consequences of a criminal conviction
  8. Your lawyer (not you) will contact any witnesses
  9. Information on your cell phone is evidence
  10. Early Intervention is the key

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