Lexington, KY — Do campus police have the right to search a dorm room without getting a warrant first?
A University of Kentucky student had his camera rolling when he refused to allow campus police to search his room without a warrant. The cops showed up at his door because alcohol was allegedly dumped from his window. Subsequent to the video being uploaded, the police department announced that it is reviewing the conduct of the officers who eventually forced their way into the room, according to Campus Reform.org.
The student in question calls his video “I hate cops,” which should give you some indication where he’s coming from. His antagonistic, abusive attitude towards the two officers does not make him a sympathetic figure for civil rights, and, to some degree, he is setting them up. He also seems to have a problem with one of the officers wearing braces on his teeth.
That being said, it is unclear what authority the two officers had to gain entry to the room without permission or securing a warrant from a judge. In general, procedures differ from college to college, and students at a public university have more rights than those who attend a private institution. It may also be a contractual matter at a particular college, i.e., the stipulations contained in the housing agreement signed by the students.
The University of Kentucky Room Entry policy lists several instances whereby authorized personnel may enter a dorm room without permission. It also states, however, that “Authorization to enter a student’s room under this policy does not constitute authorization to conduct a search of the room.” On the video, the student argues that he has the exact same privacy rights in a dorm room as he would at his home, but again that may or may not be accurate.
The Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures by law enforcement.
One of the cops cites his “administrative rights” as a university administrator rather than his status as a law enforcement officer to enter the student’s room. After a contentious back and forth, the exasperated officer finally tells the student not to bother to pay his tuition next semester because he will be kicked out of school by the Dean of Students. Once he realizes the confrontation was recorded on video, he tells student to go ahead and post it to YouTube.
It turns out that no booze was found in the dorm room — just salad dressing.
As CampusReform.org explains:
“The officers did not appear to gain consent from the student before finally shoving past him and conducting a cursory search of the premises without turning up any alcohol.
“The same officer who threatened expulsion can then be heard remarking that there ‘is no Fourth Amendment’ after opening the student’s refrigerator.”
BroBible asks an essential question about this UK dorm room raid:
“What do you think? A patriotic upholder of sacred Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure? Or a gigantic jackass who knows his video is going to go instantly viral the second he posts it to YouTube? Or a whole lot of both? You decide.”
Watch the video of the dorm room confrontation between a student and police at the University of Kentucky:
Update: The University of Kentucky fired one of the officers (apparently the officer with the braces) in this video after determining he had inappropriate physical contact with a student according to CampusReform.org.