Wednesday, October 11, 2006

People v. Superior Court (Walker) - Oct. 11, 2006

I can list the lessons I learned from reading this case fairly briefly. You'd think that they would be obvious, but for Santa Clara University student Christopher Walker, apparently they were not. So I guess they bear repeating:

(1) Don't smoke a blunt in daylight in front of your dormitory in full view of everyone on campus;

(2) When caught by a campus police officer for (1), don't spontaneously invite the officer up to your dorm room to view the other marijuana contained therein;

(3) When, as a result of (2), you're in your dorm room with the campus police, and have handed over some marijuana from the drawers in your closet, don't continue to suspiciously stand by the closet drawers while saying that'll all the marijuana you have. Especially if, in fact, you have several baggies more in your closet drawer, as well as a digital scale, $1800 in cash, and many other baggies of pot hidden throughout the room. Because -- and I know this will come as a shock to you, my undergraduate friend -- once they find this stuff, they're going to conclude that the pot isn't for your personal (allegedly medical) use, but that you sell the stuff around campus as well.

There's some interesting doctrinal stuff as well in this opinion by Justice Duffy, including a discussion about inevitable discovery (which allegedly existed here) as well as whether the third party consent of the campus police -- who were allowed to enter the dorm room both by the resident as well as the housing contract that the student signed -- validly authorizes the actual police to search the room (it doesn't). I also especially liked the line that Justice Duffy uses in the middle of her opinion, which perhaps was played straight but which may well have been deliberately funny: "There are surprisingly few cases addressing the constitutional validity of searches of college dormitory rooms." Surprising, indeed!

Anyway, if you want to know a lot about when the police can search your dorm room (and who wouldn't?!), read this opinion by Justice Duffy. As well as the short concurrence by Justice McAdams, who disagrees with Justice Duffy about this issue, and takes a somewhat different view of the relevant issue. Both are definitely worth reading. Especially -- but not only -- if you live in a dorm.

Doctrine aside, don't lose sight of the more practical lessons to be garnered from the opinion. Don't smoke dope in front of your dorm. Don't invite the campus police up to your room. Don't -- some might well say -- smoke or deal drugs. Otherwise what happens to Mr. Walker might well happen to you, my undergraduate, dorm-dwelling friend.