Must school officials have probable cause before searching a student in a public school?

No, the U.S. Supreme Court in New Jersey v. T.L.O. (1985) ruled that the probable-cause requirement in public schools was too stringent and would hamper the mainte

When is it okay to conduct a search of private property? Do the police always need a search warrant? (iStock)

When is it okay to conduct a search of private property? Do the police always need a search warrant? (iStock)

nance of order and discipline in the schools. Instead, the Court articulated a "reasonableness standard," finding that the search must be justified at its inception and that it must be reasonably related in scope to the circumstances that justified the search in the first place.

New Jersey v. T.L.O. involved a search by an assistant school principal of a student's purse. The assistant principal originally suspected the juvenile girl of smoking in the bathroom, but later discovered that the girl may be involved in dealing marijuana after searching her entire purse.

Do school officials have unfettered authority to conduct strip searches?

No, strip searches are more invasive and there is a presumption that many strip searches would not pass the reasonableness inquiry under New Jersey v. T.L.O. (1985). In Safford Unified School District v. Redding (2009; see LegalSpeak, p. 59), the Court ruled that a strip search of a student for alleging possessing prescription drug pills was not reasonable under the specific facts of the case. The Court emphasized the intrusive nature of strip searches and the fact that there was little evidence that the student Savana Redding was carrying such pills.

However, the Court granted qualified immunity to the assistant school principal in part because the case law was so divided on the constitutionality of strip searches. Qualified immunity is a doctrine that shields government officials from liability unless they violate clearly established constitutional or statutory law.

What is plain view?

The plain view doctrine provides that if a law enforcement official comes across incriminating evidence that is in his or her plain view, the officer can conduct a search without having to first obtain a warrant. The Supreme Court has reasoned that the object or material must be in plain view of the officer and that the incriminating character of the material must be "immediately apparent." Also, the law enforcement official must lawfully be in the position from which he or she spots the incriminating material. It used to be the law that the plain view doctrine required that the officer's discovery of the incriminating material be inadvertent. However, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected that requirement in Horton v. California (1990).

The U.S. Supreme Court has expanded the plain view doctrine to also include the plain feel or plain touch exception to the Fourth Amendment.

How does a court determine if someone's Fourth Amendment rights have been violated?

Sometimes the Court will ask whether someone had a reasonable expectation of privacy to determine if there was a Fourth Amendment violation. Under this test, a person subjectively must exhibit an expectation of privacy. Also, the person's expectation must be one that society regards as objectively reasonable.

What is the exclusionary rule?

The exclusionary rule is a Fourth Amendment-based principle that provides that evidence seized as a result of a Fourth Amendment violation cannot be used as evidence. The classic phrase associated with this rule is that of Justice Benjamin Cardozo, who wrote when he was on the New York Court of Appeals, "the criminal goes free because the constable has blundered."

In what decision did the Court extend the exclusionary rule requirement to the states?

In Mapp v. Ohio (1961; see LegalSpeak, p. 63), the Court ruled 6 to 3 that the Fourth Amendment-based exclusionary rule, which holds that evidence illegally seized by law enforcement officials must be excluded from trial, applies to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment due-process clause. In 1949, the Court had ruled Wolf v. Colorado that in a prosecution in a State court for a State crime the Fourteenth Amendment does not forbid the admission of evidence obtained by an unreasonable search and seizure. The Court overruled that aspect of its Wolf decision 12 years later in Mapp. Justice Tom C. Clark, a former prosecutor, wrote: "We hold that all evidence obtained by searches and seizures in violation of the Constitution is, by that same authority, inadmissible in a state court."

Who was Dollree Mapp?

The defendant in Mapp v. Ohio (1961; see LegalSpeak, p. 63) was Dollree Mapp. The case began when at least seven Cleveland police officers searched for gambling paraphernalia in the home of Dollree Mapp. Instead, the officers found pornographic books, which they labeled obscene. Mapp was found not guilty of gambling charges but was convicted on the obscenity charges. The case eventually reached the U.S. Supreme Court, which reversed her conviction because the police officers failed to produce a search warrant before rummaging through Mapp's home.

Mapp was known in boxing circles. She was the ex-wife of former top-ranked light-heavyweight and heavyweight boxer Jimmy Bivins. Then, in 1956, Mapp filed a $750,000 lawsuit against world light-heavyweight champion Archie Moore. She claimed that Moore broke a promise to marry her and physically assaulted her. Mapp moved to Queens, New York. In 1970, police officers seized $250,000 in drugs and stolen property. Mapp was convicted and sentenced to a prison term of 20 years to life. Mapp claimed the charges were a vendetta against her after her famous case. In 1981, Governor Hugh Carey commuted Mapp's sentence. She had served more than nine years in a women's prison in New Bedford, New York.

Ironically, there was another soon-to-be famous person in the Mapp case who would later play a large role in the sport of boxing. Famed boxing promoter Don King used to be involved in gambling and numbers in Ohio. It was his phone call that led the police to believe there was gambling paraphernalia in Mapp's house.

 
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