The 4th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees freedom from unreasonable search and seizure. This means that law enforcement agents need probable cause, and a warrant in most cases, to search your person or belongings. If there is no probable cause and you are searched illegally, any evidence collected from the search will be excluded from evidence at trial. This has come to be called the Exclusionary Rule.
Probable Cause – There must be enough evidence that a reasonable person would believe a crime was committed. This evidence is presented to a judge who must agree before authorizing the search by granting a warrant.
The purpose of the 4th Amendment is to protect people from being abused by a powerful government. There are strict rules that government agents must follow to search you and seize evidence.
Contrary to popular belief, the right to privacy is not specifically mentioned in the U.S. Constitution. Over the years, the courts have interpreted the 4th Amendment, along with other Amendments such as the 9th, to protect privacy in many situations.
Do you have the same rights at school?
While you don’t shed your Constitutional rights when you go to school, they must be balanced with the rights of your classmates, as well as the responsibility of the school to provide a safe environment and a quality education.
Consider these questions as you study the case histories that follow:
- Am I protected from unreasonable search and seizure at school?
- Does the school need probable cause to search me or my belongings? Does the school need a warrant?
- What can my school search, and when?