What is considered probable cause to search a student’s car or bag?

Officer Stallings, Editor

Officer Stallings:

For SRO’s, probable cause to search a student’s vehicle or bag is determined by whether or not we have reliable information that the car or bag contains evidence of a crime. For example, if a student submits an anonymous Safe2Tell report that a certain named student has something illegal (like drugs, a weapon, stolen items) in their backpack, that is not enough to establish probable cause because the report is anonymous and we have no way to confirm the information. However, if a school administrator receives the same information, they can search the car or bag because they can act on “reasonable grounds” and are not held to the same constitutional standard of probable cause because they are not law enforcement officers and operate under the Supreme Court Ruling of New Jersey v. T.L.O. See Summary of Supreme Court Case Law for more information about the ruling. For an Officer or an SRO to have probable cause, they must have information from a reliable, identified source or sources OR can operate under the “Plain View Doctrine,” which means we have actually seen the evidence ourselves in plain view. I could go on and on about this, but for purposes of this forum, I’ll keep it brief. Great question!