Does the "special needs" rule justify the officer's search of the parked car's trunk without probable cause in the following scenario?
A police officer was investigating a burglary during which a handgun had been stolen. The police officer was at the time also acting as the police advisor to a high school. School officials called the officer and told him that the gun might be in the trunk of a student's car parked in the school parking lot. Does the "special needs" rule justify the officer's search of the parked car's trunk without probable cause?
1 Answer | Add Yours
In cases like New Jersey v. TLO the Supreme Court has held that searches without probable cause may be legal when done by school officials. These searches can be legal because there is a "special need" for school officials to do things that would allow them to maintain order in a school setting. Under this doctrine, the officer's search is probably justified.
In this situation, the handgun is potentially available to the student if it is, indeed, in the trunk of his car. The student could go out into the parking lot and get the gun. This would undoubtedly cause a breakdown in order (to say the least) in the school. Because this would be a very serious danger, the officer (as a school official) is justified in searching the student's car.
Join to answer this question
Join a community of thousands of dedicated teachers and students.Join eNotes