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Judge Rules In Favor Of Duke Students In Underage Drinking Case

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DURHAM, N.C. — A Durham judge ruled Thursday afternoon that Alcohol Law Enforcement agents violated the rights of eight Duke students who had been cited for underage drinking.

In late August, Durham police and ALE officers cited approximately 200 Duke students for underage drinking during the first week of classes after officers raided three parties at houses off-campus in the Trinity Park area.

Earlier in October, many of the students cited agreed to pay a $200 fine, perform community service and write a paper about how alcohol affects the body. Eight of the students said their rights were violated and took their case to court.

Defense attorneys claim the agents did not have a search warrant and did not read the students their Miranda rights.

Agents had testified that they could not wait for a warrant because they were worried intoxicated students would leave and get behind the wheel of a vehicle. They also said Miranda rights were not needed in the case.

District Court Judge Craig Brown ruled in the defense's favor and said ALE agents should not have been in the house without a warrant and they should have read the students their rights before questioning them.

"In this country, law enforcement officers must obey the law like a private citizen," said Tom Loflin, the attorney who represented several of the students.

Mike Nifong, Durham's district attorney, said he would review the ruling, but he doubted his office would appeal the case.

Charges will likely be dropped against the students.

"I still maintain ALE agents did the correct thing," ALE District Supervisor Jeff Lasater said. "It is well known that students who drink or underage people who drink can certainly cause motor-vehicle accidents, injuring themselves and other people."


Ken Smith


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