Client Story: Juvenile Drug Possession and Search and Seizure
Danny (not his real name) was a 16-year-old high school student. One day, Danny ditched class and was hanging out in the baseball dugout with a friend. The school’s vice principal found the two young men there. Calling them out of the dugout the vice-principal was suspicious about what they were up to; he texted the school safety officer and asked him to join them at the dugout. Then he returned his attention to the young men and told them that he was going to search them. He began to search Danny’s companion’s belongings. Danny said the teacher had no reason to search him and that he was not going to submit to it. Danny walked off.
When the school safety officer arrived, the vice-principal explained what had occurred. The school safety officer radioed the town police department and put out a description of Danny. Soon a patrol officer, who also happened to be a canine officer, responded to a report of a suspicious person. He responded to the call and found Danny. He radioed the school safety officer then waited with Danny until the safety officer arrived. While they waited, the patrol office said that Danny told him that he left school because he did not want to be searched. He also said that Danny was nervous.
The safety officer arrived and briefly spoke with Danny. He asked what was in Danny’s backpack. The patrol officer instructed the school safety officer to take the backpack from Danny and place it on the ground so that he could deploy his canine to conduct a search of the bag. The dog sniffed the backpack and signaled that he smelled something in the backpack. The patrol officer then instructed the safety officer to search the backpack. The officer found Danny’s wallet with a sizeable amount of cash, some school books and other related items and what the officer believed to be illegal narcotics. Danny was then placed under arrest.
We were able to help Danny get the charges dismissed because the police had conducted an illegal search. The 4th Amendment to the US Constitution says that every citizen “has a right to be secure from all unreasonable searches and seizures, of his person, his houses, his papers, and all his possessions” and the Massachusetts Constitution states “A search of private property must be both reasonable and pursuant to a properly issued search warrant.”
The vice-principal had no reason to search Danny; when Danny left the school property and was stopped by the patrol officer, the officer had no cause to hold him, no cause to have the canine sniff the backpack and no cause to have the school safety officer search him. The mere fact that Danny was carrying a backpack in the dugout or on the street was not a reason to search him. The police had a hunch, but a hunch is not enough to execute a search. The information the police had was not sufficient to establish reasonable suspicion that Danny was involved in criminal activity.
The judge agreed with our argument, and all the charges against Danny were dismissed. At Contant Law we believe everyone, regardless of their age or circumstances, deserves fair and equal legal representation. If you need legal help, call or text us. Contant Law 617-227-8383.
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