Education Law

High School Had Right to Search 18-Year-Old's Car for Smokes; Drug, Weapon Charges Result

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At 18 years of age, Joseph A. Voss Jr. was old enough to smoke without violating the law. But because he was potentially violating high school rules if found to be doing so on campus, officials were within their rights to search the senior student’s car in the parking lot without a warrant, the Idaho Court of Appeals decided.

When they did so, administrators at Timberline High School in Boise found not the smokes they expected but brass knuckles and a pipe with marijuana residue, the court recounts in its opinion (PDF) last week. That resulted in misdemeanor drug and weapon charges for Voss.

His lawyer, John Meienhofer, argued on appeal that more than reasonable suspicion—based on a tobacco odor that seemed to be emanating from Voss—should have been required for the search. But the court unanimously held that the school justifiably had sought to maintain the security of its campus. Officials were first pointed toward Voss when someone complained that he had been driving in an unsafe manner.

“An unreasonable search of a child can result, at worst, in a juvenile court involvement. An unreasonable search of an adult student brings about the involvement of the adult criminal justice system, which may follow him the rest of his life,” argued Meienhofer in a court filing.

The Associated Press has a story, which is reprinted in the Spokesman-Review.

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