Bergen County NJ Illegal Search Defense Lawyers

School Searches: What is “Individualized Suspicion”

In in recent times it has become more common for principals and teachers to feel the need to search a student’s personal belongings. These types of “searches” may involve a student’s locker, backpack, motor vehicle, purse, wallet or even the clothes in which they are wearing.  A criminal record at such a young age can be damaging to an individual’s life, therefore, it is very important to understand your rights and to make sure certain procedural guidelines are followed.  The United States Supreme Court in New Jersey v. T.L.O. concluded that the fourth amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizures is different when being compared to a school settings. However, school officials (i.e. faculty) were not given unlimited discretion into what items and under what circumstances they may conduct a search a student’s personal belongings. When a search of a student’s personal property occurs on school grounds the threshold is lowered, from the traditional probable cause standard. With that being said, there are still procedures in which the faculty must follow.

The United States Supreme Court stated that before a faculty member is allowed to conduct a search of your personal belongings, they must contain specific individualized suspicion that there is some type of illegal contraband contained within the area they are seeking to search.  What will qualify as individualized suspicion will be determined on a case by case basis. Therefore, a well rounded argument would need to be made before the courts could conclude that the school satisfied individualized suspicion. These arguments will be made based on all of the facts surrounding the incident in question. If the court was to conclude at a suppression hearing that the search in question was invalid then the evidence obtained from the search cannot be used against you at trial.

A successful suppression hearing would significantly hinder the prosecutions ability to convict a defendant.  As a result, it is very important to speak to an experienced attorney about this matter, this area of law is very vague, and can be tricky at times. The Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall is an experienced Bergen County Criminal Defense Firm. We have over 100 years of combined experience on staff, including over twenty-five years of prior prosecuting experience. If you have any questions please contact any one of our Bergen County Offices directly at 1-800-682-4037 and one of our experienced attorney would be more than happy to review your case for you.