Parking At School Just Became Riskier

It is obviously common for Junior and Seniors in New Jersey High Schools to drive to school.   Kids are now going to have to reconsider this decision given the recent decision of the Appellate Division in State v.  Best (11/17/08 Law Journal).  In this regard, the Court expanded the ability of schools to search student vehicles, concluding that because of :

the strong state interest in maintaining order, safety and discipline in the school environment, neither probable cause nor a warrant is required.  The privacy interests of students are outweighed by the substantial interest of teachers and administrators in maintaining a drug-free environment on school grounds.  Such vehicle searches need satisfy only the reasonable suspicion standard adopted in T.L.O.

The net result of Best is to create a wider exception to the warrant requirement as it related to motor vehicle searches of student vehicles on school property.  A search will now be valid even where probable cause is lacking so long as the school possessed “reasonable suspicion” that the vehicle contained drugs or contraband.

Notwithstanding the Best decision, Juvenile searches remain fertile for defense.  We frequently see a total disregard for the rights of Juveniles in the field and this may be attributable to the thought that law enforcement is just helping the child.  I know that there is a balance here but I just have a hard time with unfettered searches in any context.  If you open the door wide open, how can you insure that the reduced standard is even adhered to? 

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