Although most searches require the police to obtain a warrant signed by a judge there are a few scenarios in which this is not the case.

Exceptions to the Rule

  • If the police arrest someone they can search the immediate area to find anything discarded by the suspect. This area is called a "grab area"
  • If a subject is acting suspiciously, they have the right to stop them and search their belongings such as a backpack
  • A parent or guardian can allow the search of a minor's pocessions
  • When you cross international borders or travel in the air, your belongings can all be searched without a warrant
  • If the police believe your vehicle or your person has contraband they may search it or you
  • If contraband is in plain sight they may search the area in which it's located
  • If a suspect enters the building or police believe someone is in danger they may enter a building
TSA employees can further screen bags if they become suspicious after an initial screening

PUblic Schools

When students are in a Public School they still maintain some of their constitutional rights. However, students do not have the full the protection of the fourth amendment.

Staff members only need reasonable suspicion instead of probable cause to conduct a search. The bar for reasonable suspicion is much lower than probable cause,

Drug dogs and locker searches are allowed in schools. They believe lockers are schools property and therefor students should not have the belief of privacy with their beoningins in those lockers.

Students may be searched before entering a public school. Drug dogs are allowed to screen fo drugs stashed in and around the school .

Suspicionless Searches

In order for most searches to be conducted there must be individual suspicion. So if you believe someone in a group of people is in the wrong you may search only that one person, not the whole group. However like most things there are exceptions.

Exceptions to the rule

  • Fixed point searches to detect illegal immigrants
  • Highway sobriety checkpoints
  • Mandatory drug and alcohol screenings for railroad employees just inloved in a crash

Current Events

A sheriffs depatrment in Georgia came under fire in April for their pat down of 900 students at a local school district. Attorneys for the parents of the students argue that it violated their 4th amendment right because the searches were suspicionless.

Pat downs in Schools

Although Courts do allow for searches at schools, they have been reluctant to allow some types of searches at Public Schools. They say when students go to class they forfeit some rights and should expect some loss of privacy. However, they do not believe they lose the expectation of privacy to their person by way of pat downs and strip searches.

Supreme Court Cases

Veronia School District v. Acton (1995)

Drug Testing in Schools

James Acton was a 7th grader in Oregon who wanted to try out for his middle school football team. The school required all athletes to be drug tested. But James's parents said they had no reason to suspect drug activity in their son so they sued the district. the case went all the way to the Supreme Court. They ruled that students especially student athletes give up some constitutional rights while at school.


Created with images by angelic - "police search road block"

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