Federal courts vehicle searches school

The Fourth Amendment to the U. Constitution guarantees "the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.

The Right to Search Students - Educational Leadership

Schools argued that administrators acted in loco parentis —in the place of the parent—while students were at school. In , the U. Supreme Court determined that the Fourth Amendment applies to students in the public schools New Jersey v. The Court concluded, however, that the school environment requires an easing of the restriction to which searches by public authorities are normally subject. School officials, therefore, do not need probable cause or a warrant to search students. The Court articulated a standard for student searches: reasonable suspicion. Reasonable suspicion is satisfied when two conditions exist: 1 the search is justified at its inception, meaning that there are reasonable grounds for suspecting that the search will reveal evidence that the student has violated or is violating the law or school rules, and 2 the search is reasonably related in scope to the circumstances that justified the search, meaning that the measures used to conduct the search are reasonably related to the objectives of the search and that the search is not excessively intrusive in light of the student's age and sex and the nature of the offense.

In New Jersey v. Since this landmark decision, several cases have debated what constitutes reasonable suspicion: Four students huddled together, one with money in his hand and another with his hand in his pocket, does not provide reasonable suspicion A.


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State of Florida , An anonymous phone call advising an administrator that a student will be bringing drugs to school, coupled with the student's reputation as a drug dealer, creates reasonable suspicion to search the student's pockets and book bag State of New Hampshire v. Drake , A report made by two students to a school official that another student possesses a gun at school constitutes reasonable suspicion to search the student and his locker In re Commonwealth v. Carey, An experienced drug counselor's observation of a student who appears distracted and has bloodshot eyes and dilated pupils justifies taking the student's blood pressure and pulse Bridgman v.

The fact that the search of all but one student in a class fails to reveal allegedly stolen property gives school officials reasonable suspicion to search that student DesRoches v. Caprio, The odor of marijuana in the hall does not provide reasonable suspicion to search all students' book bags, purses, and pockets Burnham v.

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West , Although the legal standard for reasonable suspicion is clear, the application of it in different contexts is not always as clear. The Court has even noted that articulating precisely what reasonable suspicion means. Reasonable suspicion is a commonsense, nontechnical conception that deals with the factual and practical considerations of everyday life on which reasonable and prudent men, not legal technicians, act.

Ornelas v. United States , , at School officials need only reasonable suspicion to search students in public schools, but sworn law enforcement officials normally must have probable cause to search students. Probable cause to search exists when "known facts and circumstances are sufficient to warrant a man of reasonable prudence in the belief that contraband.

But are law enforcement officials assigned to schools to maintain safety subject to the reasonable suspicion standard or the higher probable cause standard? The answer depends on whether the court views law enforcement personnel assigned to the school as school officials or law enforcement officials.

When the police or school administrators act at one another's request, they run the risk of becoming one another's agents. Such a relationship could change the standard necessary to conduct a student search. Some courts treat police officers as school officials subject to the lower standard of reasonable suspicion when they search students at the request of school administrators In the Interest of Angelia D. Other courts hold that school officials conducting a search on the basis of information from the school resource officer are acting as agents of the police and are, therefore, subject to the higher standard of probable cause State of New Hampshire v.

Jones v. Latexo Independent School Dist., 499 F. Supp. 223 (E.D. Tex. 1980)

Heirtzler , The mere presence of a sworn law enforcement officer during a search by a school administrator does not trigger the need for probable cause Florida v. School officials and sworn law enforcement officers may conduct a search without reasonable suspicion or probable cause if the student voluntarily consents to the search. Voluntariness is determined on the basis of the circumstances—including the student's age, education level, and mental capacity—and the context of the search.

When consent is granted, officials may conduct the search only within the boundaries of the consent. If a student consents to the search of her purse, for example, an administrator may not search her locker unless the search of the purse provides probable cause or reasonable suspicion to search the locker. School officials and law enforcement officers are not required to advise students that they have a right to refuse to give consent to search.

Some school policies or state regulations, however, may require that they advise students of their rights. Some school policies require students to provide consent to a search or risk discipline. In at least one federal circuit, the court has upheld this policy DesRoches v. Caprio , In this case, all but one student consented to a search of their personal belongings. The search of the consenting students revealed nothing.

Pursuant to school board policy, DesRoches was suspended for 10 days for failure to consent to the search. The student claimed that his Fourth Amendment rights were violated because the administrator did not have reasonable suspicion to search him. The court held that when the search of all other students in the class failed to reveal the stolen item, the administrator had reasonable, individualized suspicion to search DesRoches. Therefore, his discipline for failing to consent to a legal search was upheld. School officials conduct individual searches when they suspect that a student or a small group of students possesses evidence of a violation of the law or school rules.

Such searches are subject to the reasonable suspicion standard. Officials conduct random or blanket searches not because of individualized suspicion, but as a preventive measure. Examples of random searches include the use of metal detectors in school entrances and sweeps of parking lots and lockers. The legality of a random search depends on whether the school has a compelling interest or special need that warrants the use of a search without suspicion. The most common need articulated by schools is the prevention of drug abuse.

Perhaps the most controversial random search is the use of drug-sniffing dogs in schools. The right of school officials or police to use dogs to detect drugs in students' belongings is well established.

In fact, most courts conclude that such detection is not a search because the dogs merely sniff the air around the property and that students do not have an expectation of privacy in the air around their belongings. One federal court has recently held that the use of drug-sniffing dogs on a student's person requires individualized, reasonable suspicion. Prevention of drug abuse, according to this court, does not justify the dog sniffing the person because it intrudes on the expectation of privacy and security B.

Plumas Unified School District , This case changed practices in many school districts—those schools no longer use the dogs to sniff around students. Drug-testing programs are another form of a random search. In , the Supreme Court upheld a drug-testing program for student athletes because the school had a documented drug epidemic; participation in athletics was optional; the athletes had a lessened expectation of privacy because they participated in communal showering; the athletes had a heightened risk of injury; the athletes were the leaders of the drug culture; the testing procedure was minimally intrusive; and the consequence of a positive test was not discipline but treatment Vernonia School District 47J v.

Acton , As schools try to expand drug-testing programs beyond the facts in Vernonia , courts have struggled in a number of cases to determine what is constitutional: Todd v. Rush and Miller v. Wilkes upheld drug testing for students participating in any extracurricular activity.

Willis v. Anderson struck down drug testing for students suspended for certain disciplinary infractions such as fighting. Joy et al. Penn-Harris Madison School Corporation upheld a drug testing program for students who drive to school or engage in extracurricular activities. Earls v.

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Board of Education of Tecumseh Public School District struck down a drug-testing policy for students participating in extracurricular activities because no special need existed other than for athletes. The opinion notes, however, that schools need not wait until drug use is epidemic before implementing a testing program. Tannahill v. Lockney Independent School District struck down a drug-testing policy for all middle and high school students for lack of a compelling state interest there was no documented drug abuse program for students in this locality.

Until the Court provides guidance on drug-testing programs beyond the facts of Vernonia , schools should consider the following questions before instituting a drug-testing program: How serious is the drug problem in the tested population? Have less intrusive means to combat the problem been exhausted? Did parents give consent to the search?

This goes to one of my central points: a fact case is not likely to be taken and decided on by the Supreme Court. To exemplify why a facts-based argument will not interest the Supreme Court, take one case that both parties cited in their brief. Yes, there is reasonable suspicion that a crime is being committed, i. Or on the other hand, the system did not determine if that the vehicle had no insurance, but merely did not know.

Riley v. California

And, it is likely that one party could be completely correct. However, I believe the real issues of these cases is not the different factual situations that can produce reasonable suspicion, but rather who has to prove it. Under Fourth Amendment jurisprudence, a warrantless search is per se unreasonable if the person had a reasonable expectation of privacy.

However, there are exceptions to the requirement that the government must obtain a search warrant. One of these exceptions is a Terry stop, which allows law enforcement to stop a person or vehicle if they have reasonable suspicion that a crime has occurred or is going to occur.