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DAVID CLARK
Criminal Defense Attorney

Student Rights When Facing Charges

Students are to abide by their school’s code of conduct, and if they fail to follow the rules, they could face harsh consequences. When a student is facing disciplinary actions while at school, they may be unaware of their rights. Students have fewer rights when facing charges inside a campus setting because of the agreements they have made when enrolling in the university. The school is charged with being In loco parentis, which just means that they are in place of the parents while the students are in school.

After being accused of violating your school’s conduct policies, you should retain the services of a knowledgeable student defense lawyer. They could help protect your rights as well as help you avoid school disciplinary action and criminal sanctions. Speak to a skilled attorney to learn about student rights when facing charges in Philadelphia.

Rights During Search and Seizure

If student police forces such as the Temple police or Penn campus police are conducting these investigations, they would not need a warrant to search or seizure a person because they are acting under the authority of the police officers. Also, if it is a non-law enforcement person who does the search, such as a residential advisor or Dean of Students, they may not need a warrant.

Due to this, a school official may conduct a more casual investigation. The student would still be able to refuse consent to searching of their person or their property, such as their laptop, and if it is not owned by the school, they will not be able to search that property without resorting to getting a warrant.

Dorm Room

In the student’s dorm room, the student has some expectation of privacy,  as it is their residence while they are away, the same they would have in their home or their room in their home. However, because the student dorm is typically owned by the university, they have fewer rights than in the property owned by the students themselves.

If it is a search for administrative purpose or safety purpose, and not purely investigatory purpose, the school may have a right to enter that dorm room. Once inside, if they discover something in plain view or when conducting their administrative duties,  that discovery might be used against the student.

Motor Vehicle

A student’s vehicle will have the same protections as any other vehicle, meaning the university would have to have some reasonable suspicion or probable cause to search the car. This may be altered if the student has signed something as part of their admission, stating that they would allow access to their vehicle or if they are parking on campus in a school owned parking garage.

Depending on where someone places their car and the conditions of the property, they may be allowing some access to their vehicle without even knowing it.

Body Search

The students always have a right to personal security and to be free of unreasonable search and seizure. The way this works might be different in criminal court from a disciplinary hearing. So if a person’s rights are violated, and they are searched in an administrative setting by the school, that evidence might still be able to be used against them in the disciplinary process.

However, it might not be able to be used against them in a criminal court case. A student has a right to refuse consent to having their body searched when there is no suspicion that they specifically have done anything wrong.

Laptop or Cell phones

The students have a right of privacy to their laptops and cell phones, especially when password-protected, or when they have a lock screen on them.  However, this could change based on any public and acknowledged policies by the university about technology on campus and student networks such as public computers or public internet connections. Those different access points might change the privacy a student can expect, and the school is allowed access to the degree it is based on the agreement (consent) of the student by using certain public networks.

How a Student Defense Attorney Could Help

Schools differ in which ones allow legal counsel to be present and for what types of hearings. In Pennsylvania, if expulsion is a possible penalty, counsel will be allowed to attend the hearing because the consequences are so severe. In different school settings and for lesser penalties, a student can often bring one person as a representative or just for a support person, and they may choose to bring their lawyer as that support person.

A student defense attorney can help advocate for students, advising them when it is a good idea or bad idea to consent to a search and how those choices can affect their future at the school. A student defense attorney can also help protect them in the day to day process of preparing for a case upcoming as the hearing can be listed quickly and require a lot of preparation and time.

By making smart strategic choices early on, a student defense attorney could help prevent the case from escalating to a criminal level and charges being filed. Call today to learn about student rights when facing charges in Philadelphia.