Two 20-year-old UMass-Dartmouth students have been arrested on charges of possession of over $20,000 worth of drugs. According to news reports, detectives found and confiscated the following:
• 3.5 pounds of marijuana
• 35 grams of ecstasy
• 5 Alprazolam tablets (a benzodiazepine prescribed to treat anxiety disorders)
• 8 bottles of what is allegedly liquid THC (found in cannabis)
• drug paraphernalia • a digital scale
• $833.00 cash
The students, Jason Cauley and Daniel Wharton, have been suspended and will face criminal charges as well as repercussions from the college. Both men were charged with possession of Class D drugs (marijuana) as well as conspiracy to violate drug laws. Cauley was also charged with possession of a Class E substance (Alprazolam) and possession with intent to distribute a Class B substance (ecstasy).
If the students were living off-campus and were not engaged in any type of school-related activity, then why should they be further punished by the University? Generally, students have a lower expectation of privacy even when engaging in off-campus activities that are sponsored by the school. This means officials don’t necessarily need a warrant and probable cause to search. Here, Cauley and Wharton were search off-campus, but were not engaged in any sponsored activity by the college.
It seems that in this case, however, although they live off-campus, the UMass-Dartmouth Alcohol and Drug Policy still permits seizure of such items. The policy provides that its students are still required to abide by all laws and can face additional sanctions by the university (“All members of the University community (and their visitors) are expected to abide by the laws regarding illegal use of alcohol and drugs. Failure to abide by these laws may result in criminal penalties, as well as University judicial sanctions, including suspension or dismissal.”)
However, although the students were in violation of MA laws, it is not yet known what triggered the search of the students’ residence, whether the officers had any reliable reason for initiating the search to begin with, and what the college’s policy is on searches of off-campus residences. Facing such drug charges at any time in one’s life is incredibly stressful and damaging. During the college years, however, the repercussions can be even more damaging to one’s future educational and employment opportunities. College students should seek immediate legal representation to defend their rights and reputation.
UMass students arrested on drug charges, Boston.com, February 17, 2012