Search and Seizure
The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects every citizen's right to be free from unreasonable government intrusion into his or her body, house and property — whether in public, or at home, work or school.
Today, concern about drugs and violence sometimes trumps privacy rights. For example, federal courts have found that students' Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches and seizure do no always apply in a public school setting. The ACLU believes that schools are not constitutional dead zones, and continues to fight for students' privacy rights, challenging unreasonable strip-searches and seizures of property such as cell phones.
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Your Right to Privacy (A Guide for Students) (2003 resource): Getting an education isn't just about books and grades — we're also learning how to participate fully in the life of this nation. But in order to really participate, we need to know our rights — otherwise we may lose them. The highest law in our land is the U.S. Constitution, which has some amendments, known as the Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights guarantees that the government can never deprive people in the U.S. of certain fundamental rights including the right to freedom of religion and to free speech and the due process of law. Many federal and state laws give us additional rights, too.
Florida v. Harris: A Supreme Court case considering whether the police may conduct a warrantless search for drugs based solely on an alert by a drug-sniffing dog without any other evidence of the dog’s reliability so long as the dog has been “trained” or “certified.”
Baily v. United States: A Supreme Court case considering whether someone who has left the immediate vicinity of a house that is about to be searched may be seized by the police without probable cause.
Barnes v. Camden: In July 2010, the ACLU and the ACLU of NJ filed a lawsuit on behalf of an innocent man who was jailed for more than a year after police officers planted drugs on him, The officers were later implicated in a large-scale evidence planting conspiracy affecting nearly 200 Camden residents.
Messerschmidt v. Millender: A Suoreme Court case considering whether a police officer can be held liable for executing a search warrant when it is objectively unreasonable to believe that the warrant is supported by probable cause.
Safford USD v. Redding: A Supreme Court case considering whether school officials acted unconstituionally by strip-searching a 13-year-old girl based on the uncorroborated accusation of a fellow studen.