How the Fourth Amendment Helps Teens Who Are Stopped by the Police

What are your rights when you are stopped by the police?  Many teens are unsure.  It is important that everyone knows their rights when stopped by the police, particularly the rights granted by the Fourth Amendment.

The Fourth Amendment prohibits unwarranted searches and seizures.  This is important because it stops anyone from going through your belongings without reason.  If an officer asks to search you or your property, you can decline their request.  Having said that, if the officer has a warrant, you must allow him to search anything listed on it.  In order to obtain a search warrant, the officer must have probable cause.  However, if you are in school, this right is restricted.  In school, police officers are allowed to search you without obtaining a warrant.  In this case, they are allowed to search any private property in the schools if they have reasonable suspicion.

The Fourth Amendment was used in 2009 in the Safford Unified School District vs. Redding case.  In this case, a teen named Marissa Glines was found with pills and weapons hidden in a day planner.  She claimed that the planner belonged to 13-year-old Sarah Redding.  This led police to search Redding’s backpack, pockets, and clothes.  Redding sued the district, and the Supreme Court found the search illegal considering the nature and facts of the crime.

In 1985, another Supreme Court case called New Jersey vs. T.L.O., became the landmark case of searches and seizures at school.  This time, two girls were caught smoking in a bathroom while at school.  They were brought to the principal and questioned.  One girl admitted to smoking while the other girl, T.L.O., did not.  The principal searched T.L.O.’s purse, and found cigarettes, a small amount of marijuana, and rolling papers.  While being questioned by the police, T.L.O. admitted to selling drugs, and charges were brought against her.  T.L.O. claimed that the search violated her Fourth Amendment right of unlawful searches and seizures, and the Supreme Court agreed and declared that the evidence could not be used.

A good example of lawful searches and seizures is the 1968 Supreme Court case of Terry vs. Ohio.  In this instance, a Cleveland detective saw two men acting suspiciously outside of a store.  He asked for their names, but the reply was unintelligible.  As a result, the detective frisked the men, and found three guns.  The Court decided that the search was lawful, and men were arrested.

As you can see, the Fourth Amendment is very important.  It grants us privacy, thereby stopping the police from searching and seizing our property without a warrant.  It also keeps us safe by allowing the police to search with probable cause, potentially stopping crimes before they are committed.  Its significance is illustrated through the cases of Safford Unified School District vs. Redding, New Jersey vs. T.L.O., and Terry vs. Ohio.

Read More on Other
Volume 6, Issue 10, Posted 5:32 PM, 10.12.2015