When They Don't Need a Warrant


Chris Grumbine
  • Chris Grumbine

Police don't need a warrant if the person living in a residence grants them permission to search. Consider the case of Chris Grumbine. He and three friends smoked some marijuana in Grumbine's dorm room on the Humboldt State campus when he decided to light some incense. "I wasn't trying to cover up the smell," he said. "I just like incense." Not long after, he heard a knock at the door. It was a dorm advisor to remind him that the housing policy didn't permit incense. The smell of marijuana was obvious when he opened the door, and the advisor told Grumbine and his friends to stay put while he called the police.

Two officers arrived within minutes, and Grumbine gave them permission to enter. They took his pipe, sat on his desk and looked at the now-empty jar he kept his weed in. When they asked him, Grumbine let them search through his desk drawers, although they didn't find anything.

From start to finish the process took about an hour, and Grumbine was given a warning.

Campus and housing officials say that campus searches occur several times a week on average. Warrants are rare, though, because students often allow officers into their room; the perception is that consequences will be worse if they don't cooperate.

Most times, a student's first offense will result in disciplinary action from housing, and the police don't file charges. That's what happened with Grumbine.

"It was a slap on the wrist experience, and stays with the school," Grumbine said. "If it happens again though, you get kicked out of housing. They took my pipe, though."

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