New Jersey vs. T.L.O.: Illegal Search

New Jersey vs. T.L.O
The Supreme Court has a long history of upholding citizens' protections against unreasonable searches and seizures a right guaranteed by the 4th Amendment. In 1914, the Court ruled that evidence obtained by police illegally is not admissible in federal court a practice known as the exclusionary rule. In 1980, a teacher at Piscataway High School in Middlesex County, New Jersey, found T.L.O. and another girl smoking in a restroom a place that was by school rule a nonsmoking area. The two girls were taken to the principal's office where T.L.O.'s friend admitted that she had been smoking in the restroom. T.L.O. denied smoking there. She denied that she smoked at all. An assistant vice-principal demanded to see T.L.O.'s purse. Searching through it he found a pack of cigarettes. He also found rolling papers, a pipe, marijuana, a large wad of dollar bills, and two letters that indicated that T.L.O. was involved in marijuana dealing at the high school. T.L.O. was taken to the police station where she confessed that she had sold marijuana at the school. A juvenile court sentenced her to a year's probation. The State Supreme Court overturned the decision, stating that T.L.O.'s 4th Amendment rights had been violated. But White agreed with a lower court finding that a “school official may properly conduct a search of a student's person if the official has a reasonable suspicion that a crime has been committed or reasonable cause to believe that the search is necessary to maintain school discipline….” In other words, in a school, a search could be reasonable under the 4th Amendment without probable cause, so long as it was supported by reasonable suspicion or reasonable cause. The assistant vice-principal's search was considered reasonable under this definition. In 1985, the Supreme Court, by a 6-3 margin, ruled that New Jersey and the school had met a "reasonableness" standard for conducting such searches at school. The high court...
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