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New Jersey v. T.L.O.

United States Supreme Court
469 U.S. 325 (1985)


Facts

A 14-year-old freshman high school student, T.L.O. (defendant), was discovered smoking in the bathroom at the high school with a friend. The two girls were caught by a teacher at the school. The assistant vice principal, Theodore Choplick, questioned T.L.O. about the smoking, and T.L.O. denied smoking. Choplick searched T.L.O.’s purse as part of his investigation, and he found a pack of cigarettes. Choplick also noticed cigarette rolling papers, which are often used to smoke marijuana. Choplick continued searching T.L.O.’s purse and discovered a small amount of marijuana, a pipe, a substantial number of one-dollar bills, a list of students, and two letters that indicated T.L.O. was dealing marijuana. The matter was turned over to the police, and the state (plaintiff) brought juvenile-delinquency charges against T.L.O. T.L.O. then moved to suppress the evidence found in the purse, claiming that the search violated T.L.O’s rights under the Fourth Amendment. The Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court of Middlesex County held that the school district did not violate the Fourth Amendment. T.L.O. appealed, and the appellate court affirmed. T.L.O. appealed again, and the New Jersey State Supreme Court reversed the decision, holding that Choplick’s search was not reasonable, because possession of cigarettes did not violate school rules. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.

Rule of Law

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Holding and Reasoning (White, J.)

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Concurrence/Dissent (Brennan, J.)

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