Texas Stamp


PD-1391-15 02/24/2016

  1. "Should a court of appeals consider all of the totality of the circumstances, including (a) who initially searched a dorm room, (b) whether law enforcement had to conduct any additional search beyond a search conducted by university officials, and (c) whether a student consented to university officials searching her room, when determining whether the Fourth Amendment was implicated by law enforcement's actions in entering a dorm room?"
  2. "Should a university's duty to provide a safe environment, with an atmosphere conducive to the educational process, and the minimal intrusion by law enforcement be balanced against a college student's Fourth Amendment rights when determining the reasonableness of a dorm room search?"
  3. "The Court of Appeals erred in categorically ruling that the plain view doctrine did not apply because university administrators cannot have actual or apparent authority to consent to law enforcement's entry into a dormitory room."

Rodriguez was a student at Howard Payne University and lived in the dorm. As a condition of living there, she consented to searches by University officials. Dorm resident assistants searched Rodriguez's room and discovered a baggie of marijuana. The Resident Director conducted a second search, during which she discovered pills and a marijuana pipe. The Resident Director left the items on the floor in the middle of the room and then contacted the University's Public Safety Department. The officer entered the room and saw the items on the floor. He then contacted the Brownwood Police Department. After the Brownwood officer Mirandized Rodriguez, she admitted the items were hers.

The trial court granted Rodriguez's motion to suppress, concluding that Rodriguez's consent given in the housing agreement did not waive her rights against unreasonable searches and seizures. The University officer, the trial court continued, who was subject to the limitations of the Fourth Amendment, searched in the absence of a warrant, consent, or exigent circumstances.

The State appealed. It argued that the Fourth Amendment was not implicated by the officer's crossing of the room's threshold to view the exposed contraband. According to the State, his entry did not constitute a search, and Rodriguez lost any reasonable expectation of privacy once University officials located the contraband. The court of appeals disagreed. It held that the entry constituted a search. It also concluded that Rodriguez did not lose any expectation privacy because she was not aware that administrators had searched her room and discovered the items. The court opined that the administrators did not have the authority to consent simply because they were authorized to search.

The State argues that the court of appeals failed to determine the effect of the housing agreement in evaluating Rodriguez's expectation of privacy. It also asserts that the court failed to consider other determinative facts, like: Rodriguez had prior notice of the search, the Resident Director escorted the officer to the room, possession of drugs and drug paraphernalia were prohibited, and the officer was not present when the contraband was placed on the floor. The State further urges the court to resolve the tension between the expectation that universities issue regulations and discipline students and the well-established legal rule that students do not shed their constitutional rights at the schoolhouse gate.

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