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Court rules college had right to search dorm room for drugs

On Sept. 9, a Pennsylvania state court panel ruled that security officials from Alvernia University were within their legal rights to conduct a search and seizure in a student's dorm room. The Superior Court rejected a lawsuit that was filed against the university by a female student who claimed that the school had violated her privacy rights.

The dorm room search took place in December 2007 and led to the discovery of an empty alcohol bottle, marijuana and hashish. As a result of what was found, the student was charged with drug offenses by Reading police. She pleaded guilty to one count of drug possession with intent to deliver in February 2009. Her sentence included five years of probation.

Court records show that the search of the accused woman's dorm room stemmed from a typewritten complaint that was handed to school officials by the woman's roommate. The roommate claimed that the woman was selling drugs and revealed where campus security could find the contraband. The Superior Court ruled against the accused woman's privacy violation claims because it said that she had consented to searches in the contract that she signed with the university when she was a freshman.

In most cases, authorities are required to have a search warrant before entering someone's residence and seizing property. A person who has been handed drug charges after an unlawful search and seizure may want to challenge the results of the investigation in court. A criminal defense attorney may be able to help a defendant to argue that the evidence that was used by the prosecution in court was obtained unlawfully.

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