RA’s Demand to Enter Dorm Room was Illegal

The client was vomiting in the bathroom of her University Park dormitory on the Penn State Campus. The client returned to her room without incident and went to bed. A resident assistant knocked on the client’s door and demanded that the client permit the Penn State police to enter. The client complied with the RA’s demand and permitted the police to enter the room. The police found out that the client had been drinking and was under the age of 21, she was charged with consumption of alcohol of a minor or Underage Drinking under 18 Pa.C.S.A. 6308.

At the summary trial, experienced State College Underage Drinking lawyer Jason S. Dunkle argued that the evidence of intoxication must be suppressed because the police officer’s warrantless entry violated the client’s constitutional rights against unreasonable searches and seizures. While the police are not required to obtain a warrant to enter a home if a person consents, the consent must be clear, unequivocal, and not the produced of duress or coercion. If consent was not clear or was the product of duress, then all evidence found as a result of the warrantless search is suppressed. In this case, Attorney Dunkle argued that the client’s consent was invalid because she was only complying with an order from the RA, and the RA did not have the legal authority to demand that the client permits the police to enter.

The State College judge agreed with the criminal defense lawyer’s argument and suppressed the evidence of intoxication. Without evidence that the client had been drunk, the judge found the client not guilty of consumption of alcohol by a minor. An expungement petition was filed to have the Underage Drinking criminal charge expunged from the Penn State student’s criminal record.