What are my rights in a college dorm?

College students suffer from an unfortunate lack of privacy rights in many situations. At a state school, the dorm is the property of the state and can generally be searched at the discretion of school officials or campus police. Similarly, at a private school, the dorms belong to the school and can be searched at its discretion as well.

College students still have 4th Amendment rights that apply in other situations, but because you don't own your place of residence, you have limited authority to assert a 4th Amendment claim in regards to your room.

Campus policies vary from one school to the next, so it's best to check the policy at your school so that you know what to expect. Some schools offer better privacy protection for students than others, but there's generally no harm in attempting to protect your privacy by refusing searches and refusing to incriminate yourself. We've heard success stories from college students who asserted their rights, so remember that keeping calm and knowing the rules will help improve your odds of avoiding problems.

Furethermore, we've observed that smoking marijuana is the quickest and easiest way to get in trouble in your dorm. Many schools put significant resources into catching and punishing marijuana users on campus, often resulting in severe sanctions such as arrest, removal from the dorms, suspension, urine testing, fines, parental notification, etc. "Puff the Magic Dragon" is a folk song and a Disney character; it is NOT a roadmap for how best to get through college!

Some states, such as Kentucky, extend greater 4th Amendment protections to college students, giving them the same right to refuse entry to police that any student living off-campus would have, with just a few exceptions. This was a good thing for one particular student at the University of Kentucky-Lexington