When Is It Illegal to Search a Student’s Locker in Maryland?

When a student is searched at school by school authorities, sometimes different search and seizure rules apply than if the child was not on school property. School officials can legally search a student’s locker if the search is justified. Maryland law (section 7-308 of the Maryland Education Article) permits reasonable searches of students based on a reasonable suspicion.

Reasonableness of Search
The search would likely be considered reasonable if the school official receives a tip or sees something that leads him to believe that a student has alcohol, drugs, drug paraphernalia, or weapons. If the school official believes a student has an item whose possession would create a criminal offense, he can conduct a reasonable search. A court will consider the age and gender of the student, and the nature of the suspicion to decide whether the search was excessively intrusive.

Expectation of Privacy
A school locker is not a student’s property like a backpack or purse is, and so the school has more flexibility to search it. A student has no expectation of privacy in a locker that is temporarily assigned to him or her. However, the right of the school to search the lockers must be announced or published previously in the school. A common place for a school to publish this right is in the Student/Parent Handbook.

So, a locker search could be illegal if school officials have not followed certain rules. A court might find such a search to be a violation of a student’s 4th Amendment rights if it is not based on a reasonable suspicion, if it is excessively intrusive, or if the school has failed to announce or publish the right to search lockers.

Contact the Law Offices of Christopher L. Peretti today at 301-875-3472 if you or your child needs legal advice after being searched at school.

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