Lawyers Defending College Students Against Alcohol, Drug, Sexual Assault, Plagiarism and Other Violations in Colleges, Universities & Courts

College Students: Here is what to do if the police show up at your door

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As a college student, living on your own in a new place for the very first time can be confusing and overwhelming.

Even though YOUR priorities might include juggling your studies while exercising your various social and creative freedoms, you are still expected to comply with the general law, as well as college policies. 

So, it’s important that students understand the grounds for disciplinary action as well as the components and timelines involved with due process in order to avoid a violation.

That’s where attorney Shan Wu comes in with a new video series of tips to help college students just like you understand how the law works - especially when it pertains to on-campus activities.


Today's college student defense tip is going to be about what to do when the police are at your door.

So here is what you do. You're answering the door, knock knock. You look outside, there’s a police officer. You step outside and then close that door behind you and you say

"Officer, how may I help you?" 

Why do you close that door behind you? Because if there is something called the plain view doctrine.

If the officer can see something amiss in that room, there may be a party going on and you do not know what your roommates are doing. You don't have eyes behind your head.

If they see there is something wrong that is in their plain view, now they can come in, they can search, they can sieze, they may arrest. So you want to close that door behind you.

People ask:

"Should I ask the officer if they have a warrant?"

You can if you want, but I promise you that they won't have one. If they had a warrant, they wouldn't be asking you what are you doing, can we come in. They’d already be inside. That's something you can set aside.

Dormitory rooms are a little bit different. Your RA gets to come in and you probably signed the house agreement which lets them in and look for certain things.

It's a little different than confronting the regular police, but the rule of thumb in confronting the regular police is always be polite, non-confrontational... you're looking to diffuse and neutralize the situation.

It's not the time to show off your knowledge about the constitution.

More about your host: Shanlon “Shan” Wu has taken on cases involving colleges students accused of university conduct code violations and criminal charges such as drug possession, alcohol violations, assault, and sexual assault as well as university academic honor code violations such as cheating and plagiarism. He is passionate about educating individuals, in particular those currently enrolled in higher education, about their rights.

Questions about your college defense case?

Click here to get in touch with Shan Wu and the team at DC Student Defense.

About the Author

Shanlon Wu, College Student Criminal Defense Attorney

Shan represents college students in a wide variety of student disciplinary actions related to drugs, alcohol, plagiarism, cheating, sexual assault, and computer crimes. Shan’s professional and personal background give him a unique understanding of academic institutions and the criminal justice system. A former prosecutor, he served 10 years supervising the misdemeanor crime section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia working closely with all of the Washington D.C. area law enforcement agencies. Because Shan grew up in a university environment, he understands the mindset of academic institutions. This professional and personal experience gives him a deep understanding of codes of student conduct, student disciplinary hearings, and university disciplinary proceedings.