Thursday, November 03, 2005

The Drug War "Revealed"

Students in Chestertown, MD are suing their school district over a particularly disturbing police search that took place in the name of the War on Drugs.
The suit stems from an April 2004, lockdown at Kent County High School, where the principal invited the county sheriff's department to search for illegal drugs. During the search, one student said she was forced by a female officer to lift her skirt and expose her underwear. The search did not reveal any contraband, the lawsuit says.
Talk about invasive (and pointless)!


Micah Daigle said...

Here's some reading material for the Cherstertown Police Department:

"Amendment IV to the United States Constitution: The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

Cliff said...

I would add, that failure of politicians, school administrators or other persons in the public trust to recognize the meaning of the 4th Amendment should be individually and collectively sued right back to the stone age.

Jonathan Perri said...

This reminds me of an incident that happend about 9years ago (I read about it just last year) in Clayton County, GA. In this case, money was missing from the teacher's desk and she decided to search the room, desks, and had students take off their shoes and empty their pockets. Ironically enough, when the teacher failed to recover any of the missing money, a DARE officer that was in the building was asked to help find the money by strip searching the 5th grade male students in the bathroom: "What happened in the bathroom is in dispute. What's not in dispute is that Billingslea unfastened his own pants and belt and dropped his pants at least down to his upper thighs to demonstrate what he wanted the boys to do, and the boys then dropped their pants. Some dropped both their pants and their underwear. A boy from another fifth-grade class entered the bathroom during the search, and Billingslea directed him to loosen his belt and turn out his pockets." The female students were searched by the female teacher in a similar manner. The strip searches did not turn up any money.
A simple google search of the words "strip search students money drugs", will bring up many of articles concerning searches such as the one above.
note: The search was for $26

Kaya said...

Actually, while this search was unfair and absolutely rediculous the fourth amendment does not completely apply to searches on school property. In the case T.L.O. vs New Jersey an unamed girl (T.L.O.) was accused along with one other girl of smoking cigarettes in the bathroom of their school. They were questioned separately and the other girl confessed, while T.L.O. denied it. The principal then asked to look in the girl's purse. There was a pack of cigarettes, however it was not against school rules to have tobacco on the high school's campus. After that the principal was not able to search any further or touch the cigarettes. However the principal did remove the cigarettes and found rolling papers (which are also for tobacco) but are associated with marijuana use. He then continued to search without a warrant and found baggies, a pipe, marijuana, a lage amount of money and a list of the names of people who owed her money. She was arrested and went through court(put on probation with community servuce) she appealed this several times to the state courts and finally got it appealed to the supreme court. It was turned down there and from this case it was decided that on school property and warrant as well as probable cause are not needed. The school may use resonable suspicion or whatever they feel is necessary for the safety of the students or for the upholding of laws. Beyond this it is the court's decision whether or not what the school did was constitutional. While I find the cases listed absolutely rediculous, and think that they should be unconstitutional, they are unfortunately constitutional....well probablu not the clayton county example but if its on school grounds fourth amendment does not apply.

Anonymous said...

The comments on this discussion point to a very interesting development of the 4th amendment. Originally, the ammendment was such that any unreasonable search (a search that invades one's reasonable expectation of privacy) can be conducted only with a valid warrant.

Though warrants are generally still the norm, the Supreme Court has begun to chip away at this. Police still cannot search the bags of a person walking down the street without a warrant. However, if the same person places thei bags in a car, police have been able to search these bags WITHOUT a warrent so long as they have probable cause (US v Ross). If this person goes to an airport, the Court has ruled that the bags may be searched without any suspician at all (can't remember the case, but we've all flown and it's practiced). Though this final development makes some sense, it is clear that the 4th ammendment is gradually being redifined by the Supreme Court to reflect the search's "reasonability" as the barometer for legite searches. Like the development of TORT law in the early 20th century, the dangers of an exception displacing the rule - that is, the potentially radical development of law by the judiciary - should not be ignored.

THe Kent County HS incident, however, does not seem to fall under the same principles as the above "person with bags" example. There was a fairly recent case in which a HS student was strip-searched and no drugs were found. I can't remember what the decision was, I read it 4 years ago, but I do know that the narc teacher had demonstrated reasonable suspician.

If the Court thought an in-school search based only on reasonable suspician was invalid, the KC High suit has strong precedent and a great shot on appeal. If not, the shot remains but the outcome will be determined by the particular precedents invoked by the appellate judge (lacking a law degree, I can't speculate on this).

Good luck kid!