A Tip Justifies Searching The Student’s Person, Locker and Car For Drugs Case

The school nurse suspected a 10th grade student named RS of being under the influence of drugs.  When questioned by the nurse he admitted buying the pill from a student named TB.  Following investigative procedure TB was brought to the office and told that another student said he bought pills from him.  A search revealed three white pills in TB’s pants pocket.  TB admitted selling one pill to another student for $5 but insisted it was a nutritional supplement.  In accordance with school policy they searched TB’s locker and found no drugs or other contraband.  Students had to receive permission to drive to school and TB had been granted such approval because he was participating in an auto mechanics class.  Part of right to drive a car to school was the consent to search it for contraband.  A search of the car found drugs, including marijuana.  TB was charged with possession of steroids, diazepam and selling drugs within 1,000 feet of a school.  He was found guilty in Juvenile Court of all charges.  He appealed his case, claiming he had a greater expectation of privacy in his car than in his pants pocket and locker.  This meant the car search violated his privacy rights so his conviction should be reversed.  The court disagreed and affirmed his conviction.

When they found the pills in his pockets, school officials could legally continue the search.  This court ( and courts in other states) held that a car, like a pocket, purse, backpack or locker is one of the obvious places a student can keep drugs and conceal them from school officials.   Accordingly, it is legally reasonable  to search these areas and  searching them did not constitute a privacy violation.  Here they had reliable information  that TB was selling drugs.  This information added up to “reasonable suspicion” to justify detaining, questioning TB about drugs.  The “scope” of the search that followed was not a “witch hunt.”  Instead, it was limited to places where it was reasonable to believe  students could conceal drugs, weapons or other contraband.  TB did not have a greater expectation of privacy in his car than in his locker, backpack or pants pockets.  His conviction was affirmed.


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