The defendant, a fourteen-year-old student, was found smoking cigarettes in a public high school bathroom. She was taken to the vice-principal’s office. He asked the defendant to come into his private office and demanded to see her purse. Opening the purse, he found a pack of cigarettes. As he reached into the purse for the cigarettes, the vice- principal also noticed a package of cigarette rolling papers. Suspecting that a closer examination of the purse might yield further evidence of drug use, the vice- principal thoroughly searched it. He found several pieces of evidence that implicated the defendant in marijuana dealing.
Whether the intrusion of the defendant’s purse by a public high school administrator was a Fourth Amendment search?
Yes. The Fourth Amendment regulates all government intrusions into reasonable expectations of privacy.
The Constitution acts as a regulation of governmental actions. Every governmental intrusion into a person’s reasonable expectation of privacy must meet Fourth Amendment scrutiny. Under ordinary circumstances, a search of a student by a teacher or other public school official will be justified at its inception when reasonable grounds exist for suspecting evidence that the student has violated either the law or the rules of the school. Such a search will be permissible in its scope when the measures adopted are reasonably related to the objectives of the search and not excessively intrusive in light of the age and sex of the student and the nature of the infraction.
469 U.S. 325, 105 S. Ct. 733 (1985)