Law Offices of Christie A. Leary P.C.

Fairfax/Manassas Criminal & Personal Injury Blog

When it comes to juveniles in Virginia, the law is different when it comes to search and seizure than it is for adults. There are certain rules for juveniles that are quite different than they would be if the person is 18 or older. When the search is made in a school, the student has a certain level of privacy. However, the school also has the right to keep order, impose discipline, keep the grounds secure and maintain safety for the other students.

There are different forms of searches for juveniles in school. The administration can conduct a blanket search on a random basis. In addition, they can perform a search if there is reasonable suspicion. They can also conduct consent searches. Also, law enforcement can perform searches if there is probable cause to do so. Blanket and administrative searches are done to deter students from engaging in certain illegal behaviors or activities that are against the rules of the school. The idea is to keep the premises safe and drug-free.

With a search based on reasonable suspicion, there must be a belief that a violation of school regulations is occurring or there is a criminal offense in progress. This search can be for drugs, alcohol, fireworks, weapons and explosives. It can also include cash from the sale of drugs, profits from gambling or stolen goods. This is legal when the law or a rule of the school is broken, if a student committed an infraction, if there is evidence of an infraction or if the evidence is believed to be in a particular location.

A consent search is when the student allows the school to conduct the search. The student must understand the meaning of giving consent. If a school resource officer -- a law enforcement officer of the school -- wants to conduct a search, it is similar to police conducting a search and the standard of proof is higher with the need for probable cause instead of simply having reasonable suspicion. There must be a belief a crime was committed.

Given the ambiguities when it comes to school searches and the juvenile law system, students who are facing allegations must also understand the long-term consequences if an illegality is discovered. Those who are facing these allegations must formulate a sound defense with the assistance of a legal professional that understands in the juvenile law system.

Source: virginiarules.com, "Search and Seizure," Accessed May 12, 2015

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