UofA Students Arrested in the Dorms: What You Should Know

So, maybe you’ve plunked down a pile of money to move your eighteen-year-old daughter or son into the dorms at University of Arizona. What follows is a few things you might not know yet about how the University of Arizona Police, Residence Life, and the Arizona Board of Regents, working on concert, might be expected to treat your child.

Arrests for Misdemeanors in the Dorms

First, understand that in the dorms, your child’s privacy rights as a practical matter are left at the key-carded entrance. And that the Resident Assistants rather than acting as your child’s “assistants,” actually serve as de-facto auxiliaries of the University of Arizona Police.

In the vast majority of cases, it is the Resident Assistants themselves who make the call to the Police about your child. And they do so for relatively minor occurrences it seems—when for example an RA thinks she smells marijuana creeping (“emanating” the Police like to call it, the RA’s adopting the police verbiage) out from under your child’s dorm room door, or suspect usually correctly mind you that there’s underage drinking going on behind that door, or when they hear what they think behind that door is heated argument your daughter might be having with her boyfriend.

To such calls from Resident Assistants, University of Arizona Police respond gingerly, spiriting to the your child’s dorm in pairs, triumvirates, foursomes, knocking assertively.

When the dorm room door cracks ope a bit, , the University Police then typically open if further themselves, physically or legally, gaining entrance to your child’s bedroom through extracted “consent” ( either from your child or her roommate). They then typically conduct a “sweep,” looking for items in “plain view” and then too often “effectuate” a warrantless search, in almost all cases having you child step out of the room into the hall, separating her from her roommates and friends.

Then, as surprising as this may sound, they typically end up charging your child with a crime– for such behavior as consuming alcohol under age, having a fake ID, possessing marijuana concentrates in the dorms (which University of Arizona long considered a felony), slapping or even yelling loudly at a recalcitrant boyfriend (which the police and the RA jointly characterize as “domestic violence”).

And maybe most shocking of all is the University Police in too many cases book your child into jail for the night, with the RA looking on.

Police Interaction with College Freshman

It takes a very brave eighteen-year-old to stand up to the persistent and pervasive pressure exerted by the police crowding her doorway, blocking her egress, and refuse to allow them (especially in the presence of your child’s own RA) entrance without a warrant, refuse to permit a search sans warrant of her bedroom, and refuse to answer any of their pressing questions, most of which are designed to elicit an incriminating response.

As a result, the University Police in far too many cases, having extracted “evidence” through warrantless entrance search and interrogation of your child, to formulate what they consider just enough “probable cause” to charge your child criminally and in a surprisingly large number of those cases cart your child off to jail.

The Dean of Students Office

I should say that in my experience, the University of Arizona Dean of Students Office is peopled by Deans who actually care and want to help your child succeed academically and morally. And they try to help your child learn from the experience.

But any time there is a criminal charge issued against you child by the University of Arizona Police Department in the dorms there will be, nearly without exception, a “referral” to the Dean of Student’s Office.

Your child will receive a dross email with the subject line “DOS”, the body of the email informing your child of the alleged “violation(s) of the Student Code of Conduct” (violating any “State Law” is by itself a Code of Conduct violation), and grounds for discipline, separate and aside from whatever might happen in criminal court. Your child then goes (it’ basically not optional ) to a formal meeting convened at the Dean’s Office in Nugent Hall, and is “given the opportunity” to “participate,” that is to admit what they’ve done, and be “held accountable.”

In most cases, especially first offenses, the Deans Office is very reasonable, assigning things like a personal essay, and requiring attendance at a “civic responsibility” (put on by them).

However, in repeat violations (which are very common for some freshmen, especially those jumping into Greek Life), the consequences imposed by the Dean of Students Office can be incrementally greater, and things like probation and eviction from the dorms are on the table.

Eviction from the Dorms

This happens a lot. The final dorm-eviction decision is made unilaterally and without any real recourse by Residence Life, the department that collected your substantial payment(s) for the privilege of having your child live in their dorms.

You might think it’s like a normal lease you and your child signed but, at least according to Residence Life, it’s not.

I’ve heard Residence Life personnel claim that the contract you and your child signed isn’t actually a lease at all but rather what they call a “license”—whatever that is.

As a result, in their view, the Arizona Residential Landlord Tenant Act—which requires any landlord before he evicts even deadbeat meth head tenant with a lab in the bathroom to first jump through a number of semi-onerous legal hoops (like going to court and having a judge decide, for starters)—does not apply to them.

In short, Residence Life operates outside the law, at least Arizona Residential Landlord Tenant law. If so, by extension of logic, the deadbeat meth-head in Section 8 Housing with the meth lab in his bathroom, has more tenancy and possessory rights than your pre-paid child (and more privacy rights), at least if your child is living in the dorms at University of Arizona.

The Dorm Summary Eviction Procedure: Residence Life simply emails your child a Notice of Eviction, and gives your child ten days to clear out (I’ve seen this happen even during finals), and for good measure cancel your child’s key card to the dorm in which she lives.

This summary eviction is a rude awaking for a college freshman and her parents, to say the least. It is not only jarring academically and socially for your child, and expensive, but for parents, particularly those who live out of state, say in Lake County Illinois, or Bergen County New Jersey, or the San Francisco Bay area, this ordeal quickly metastasizes into logistical nightmare, occasioning a series of emergency air-line-facilitated visits back to Tucson, coupled with angry and then pleading calls to Residence Life

I know this may come as a shock to you, parents and freshman alike, but I invite (challenge) anyone from the Arizona Board of Regents, the University of Arizona Police Department, University of Arizona Office of Residence Life, or University of Arizona Office of the President, to correct me on any fact that I have averred herein.

Conclusion: Criminal Record Follows Your Child

In sum, Residence Life and the University of Arizona Police and the Board of Regents, working on concert, put your child at unjustifiable risk of having an Arizona inexpungible adult criminal record of “arrest”—for conduct long-woven into the fabric of college life, the dorms making your child an easy target.

Someone has to let you and your children know what happens on a near daily basis at the University of Arizona in the residence halls. It’s a different kind of “education.” I hope this helps.

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Michael Harwin

About Michael Harwin

Michael’s skill and experience have been recognized repeatedly. He holds an A-V 5/5 preeminent rating by Martindale Hubbell. He has been named one of the top lawyers in Arizona by Southwest Superlawyers, and one of the best lawyers in Tucson by Tucson Lifestyle Magazine. He also has been named one of the best lawyers in the United States by BestofUS.com , and given the highest rating possible by AVVO, 10/10 Superb. Amazon Books