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What rights do college students have in their dorm rooms?

You hope that when your child goes back to college this fall (or begins their freshman year), they'll focus on getting the education for which you're paying so dearly. You don't want them to get into anything that could get them in trouble at school — or worse, with the police. However, you can't control what your child or the people around them are doing doing every minute. That's why it's essential for college students to understand what rights they do and don't have in their dorm rooms or other campus housing.

Students who are living in a dorm or other property owned by the university must sign rental agreements. For example, Vanderbilt University has an Undergraduate Academic Year Housing Contract. Students should read and understand the agreement so that they know under what circumstances university officials, security personnel and local law enforcement can enter their rooms. Parents should read and keep a copy of these agreements as well.

College students should also know how to firmly but politely assert their rights. This is true whether they encounter law enforcement authorities in their dorm rooms or around town. By knowing how to assert their rights and not saying anything to incriminate themselves, they may be able to avoid or at least minimize negative consequences.

An arrest can have a serious impact on a college student's life, even for something fairly minor like underage drinking or marijuana possession. An arrest can cost a college student their scholarships and team or other organizational memberships. An arrest, depending on the crime, can even lead to a suspension or expulsion from school.

Of course, convictions can follow people well beyond college. No matter how angry and disappointed you may be with your son or daughter and how much you may want them to learn their lesson, don't allow them to go through the criminal justice system alone. An experienced Tennessee criminal defense attorney can provide valuable support and protection of their rights.

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