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Police execute search warrants at Missouri State University

On this St. Louis DWI blog we've written several times about the Fourth Amendment and how it protects people against the unlawful search and seizure of their person or property by law enforcement officials. However, it is important to understand that this does not bar every search in every situation. A series of recent investigations at Missouri State University highlights some issues surrounding warranted searches and how police conduct drug investigations.

Three search warrants were served and executed a few weeks ago inside university residence halls. Working off a tip from an anonymous source, police officers secured the warrants based on reports of drug use and suspected drug use inside residence halls and vehicles. They found marijuana, including a full plant, and various paraphernalia.

In one instance, the smell of marijuana was detected in the common area of the apartment, which had four separate bedrooms attached. This highlights issues of shared space. For example, what if the roommate of a drug user or trafficker is arrested or charged based on evidence found in a common area of their living space? Or what if they contact the police and are able to give a detailed description of what's in the apartment without the officers needing to seek a warrant?

Drug offenses and other crimes come with serious consequences, which can be even more dire for college students. In addition to all traditional penalties in the criminal justice system, students may be at risk of losing a scholarship, campus housing or being suspended or expelled. In addition, a criminal record can make it harder to secure employment after graduation.

Source: The News-Leader, "Missouri State University residence halls focus of drug investigations," March 1, 2013

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