New Jersey v T.L.O Created by: Garrett baston

Case number 469

State of New Jersey v T.L.O

The story behind the series of cases begins with two girls being caught in one of the bathrooms of Piscataway High School smoking cigarettes. One girl admitted to smoking and you no longer hear about her. T.L.O, the other girl, denied it and this eventually led to her bag being searched. While having her things looked through by school officials marijuana and also a list of people owing her money was discovered. She was charged with possession of marijuana and was given one year of probation. This case went through four trials, which began with The Juvenile and Domestic Regulations Courts of New Jersey, then to The Superior Court of New Jersey (Appelate Division), to the New Jersey Supreme Court, and finally the Supreme Court of the United States.

New Jersey v T.L.O was a juvenile court case that began in March of 1984 and didn't end until January of 1985. Prior to the first court appearance on March 28, 1984 T.L.O attempted to suppress the evidence discovered the day of the search. She claimed this was a violation of her Fourth Ammedment rights and was not admissible in court. This motion was denied by the court.

The Juvenile and Domestic Regulations Courts of New Jersey.

The first court case of the New Jersey v. T.L.O trial took place on March 28, 1984. The case was argued in The Juvenile and Domestic Regulations Courts of New Jersey. The ruling was that T.L.O's Fourth Amendment was not violated by the search the school administrators conducted. T.L.O was found guilty of the charges and was given one year of probation. Not liking the results, she took the case to the state court.

New Jersey State Court System (Appellate Division)

Here, the ruling of the Fourth Amendment not being violated, from the first court appearance, was affirmed. The case was sent back to the juvenile court though to decide whether T.L.O had knowingly and voluntarily given up her Fifth Amendment right. That being her right against self incrimination before confessing.

New Jersey State Supreme Court

The State Supreme Court agreed with lower courts that T.L.O's Fourth Amendment had not been violated. They also stated that the school may conduct a warrantless search when evidence of illegal activity is present.


The petitioner, T.L.O, did not agree with the New Jersey State Court. She felt that her Fourth Amendment had been violated during to the search of her purse. She also believed that the evidence found could not be used, because it was discovered during a search that was not reasonable.


The respondent believed that the right of T.L.O had not been violated. They believed they had probable cause for the search, after catching her and a friend smoking in the bathroom. They also disagreed with respondent when stated that the evidence shouldn't be used. The respondent said that they had good reasoning for the search and that T.L.O had given up her right of privacy when caught smoking and with the cigarettes.

Petitioner's Desire

T.L.O wanted one thing, for the charges against her to be dropped. Her beliefs were that the evidence couldn't be used and that her rights had been violated. Without the evidence there was no case.

U.S Supreme Court Ruling

T.L.O's Fourth Amendment right was not violated. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the school with a 6-3 vote. The decision in favor of the school was given on January 15, 1985. Justice White, Burger, Powell, Rehnquist, and O'Connor were the majority vote.

Majority Opinion by Justice White

White's statement was "". . . The warrant requirement, in particular, is unsuited to the school environment . . . [T]he legality of a search of a student should depend simply on the reasonableness, under all the circumstances, of the search . . . Such a search will be permissible in its scope when the measures adopted are reasonably related to the objectives of the search and not excessively intrusive in light of the age and sex of the student and the nature of the infraction. "

Concurring Opinion of the Majority

The concurring opinion was given by Justice Blackmun. She stated that she agreed with the decision, but the reason she agreed was for the safeguard of students, teachers, or the educational process itself.

Dissenting Opinions

Justice Brennan, Justice Stevens, & Justice Marshall joined to write their dissenting opinions to say, in a dumbed down way, the ruling may have been unfair to T.LO. They said that her Fourth Amendment right was violated by the principal. After finding the cigarettes he should've stopped the search, since all she had been caught doing was smoking. He had no reason to search any further and the evidence he found was not found legally and should not have been considered admissible in court.

This case has great significance when it comes to school searches. Laws of search and seizure give school officials the right to search you, as long as they have probable cause. This case created a big dispute over the privacy of students and personal belongings. In the end I believe what was done had good reasoning and probable cause.


Created with images by ictyphotos - "Courtroom 1" • saibo - "lips smoke female" • FaceMePLS - "The Supreme Court"

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