In 1984, a teacher discovered T.L.O smoking in a school bathroom. She was then taken to the Vice Principal's office for questioning.
After T.L.O denying she had been smoking, the Vice Principal searched her purse and found cigarettes. He then continued the search and found weed, pipes, a list of people who owed her money and two letters implying her dealing weed.
She was charged with the possession of marijuana and tried to get the evidence suppressed, but was denied. Once found guilty, she appealed and the it found the motion to suppress the evidence was fair. It was then appealed again to the Supreme Court of NJ where the ruling was reversed again.
Middlesex County Court
NJ Superior Court
NJ Supreme Court
T.L.O's lawyers argued that her 4th ammendment rights were violated as the court did not uphold the exclusionary rule of inadmissable evidence and the administration preformed an unreasonable search of her belongings. The case eventually reached the Supreme Court and was argued in both March and October 1984.
The court ruled 6-3 in favor of New Jersey. The Majority argued...
The warrant requirement, in particular, is unsuited to the school environment: requiring a teacher to obtain a warrant before searching a child...would unduly interfere with the maintenance of the swift.. disciplinary procedures... we hold today that school officials need not obtain a warrant bear on the reasonablness of a search.
However, the Dissenters argued...
Applying the constitutional probable-cause standard to the facts of this case, [we] would find that Mr. Choplick's search violated T.L.O.'s Fourth Amendment rights... Mr. Choplick demanded to see her purse... [and] discovered the pack of cigarettes. At this point, his search for evidence of the smoking violation was complete... we need not decide whether the initial search conducted by Mr. Choplick... was valid. For Mr. Choplick at that point did not have probable cause to continue to rummage through T.L.O.'s purse.