Court Says Probation Violations By Teen Don't Justify On-Demand Warrantless Searches Of His Electronics

from the little-bit-of-4th-and-1st-implications-all-tied-up-together dept

It's assumed (wrongly) that minors have few, if any, Constitutional rights. The error is easy to make because they're just kids. They can't drink, smoke, vote, or even serve their country/secure these own valuable freedoms by [checks sources] aiding in the increase of opium production in foreign countries. "Hundreds of government officials can't be wrong!" someone is sure to exclaim, being just as wrong as the hundreds half-assedly cited in their stinging rebuttal.

Minors do have rights. They're subject to more limitations but they're far from nonexistent. But that doesn't stop prosecutors, cops, and school officials from pretending "limited" equals "zero." A case highlighted by FourthAmendment.com shows a court pushing back against this assumption, which took the form of an overly-invasive probation condition slapped on a minor following a search of the student which uncovered a small knife, rolling papers, and a lighter.

The incident leading to the search began when the student fell asleep during class, which is possibly one of the most ordinary things a student can do. The student admitted he had smoked marijuana the night before (also possibly one of the most normal things a high school student can do), but hadn't smoked any that day or on school property. He was asked to consent to a search and he volunteered he had a knife in his possession. The search uncovered the rest of the "contraband." The 15-year-old was then arrested, detained, and placed on home detention.

Had that been the end of it, there would have been nothing to write about. But the dispositional order dealing with probation conditions added a whole bunch of unnecessary stipulations given the violation. This occurred when the minor violated his probation conditions by using marijuana and Xanax. Subsequent violations occurred -- all of them drug-related. A few months later, the minor appeared to be back on the road to the state's good graces. He was doing well in school and had landed a job. For whatever reason, the state decided to punish the minor for getting his life back together. This hearing added stipulations that appear to be far more vindictive than curative, and they're certainly anything but Constitutional. From the decision [PDF]:

In the report submitted for the September 7, 2016 dispositional hearing, without explanation, the probation officer recommended adding an electronics search condition.

[...]

Later the same day, the juvenile court judge issued a signed written disposition order, describing the electronic search condition in greater detail, using the following text, which probation had recommended: “[Minor must] submit all electronic devices under [his] control to search and seizure by the probation officer at any time of the day or night with or without a search warrant, arrest warrant, or reasonable suspicion, including all logs, text and voicemail messages, photographs, emails, and social media account contents contained on any device or cloud or internet connected storage owned, operated, or controlled by [Minor], including but not limited to cell phones, computers, computer hard drives, laptops, gaming consoles, mobile devices, tablets, storage media devices, thumb drives, Micro SD cards, external hard drives, or any other electronic storage devices. [Minor] shall also disclose any and all passwords, passcodes, password patterns, fingerprints, or other information required to gain access into any of the aforementioned devices or social media accounts as requested by any probation officer . . . .”

The minor challenged this order on constitutional grounds, citing its needless violation of his privacy. Given the state's unwillingness to specify which of the offenses these conditions addressed, the court finds the minor has a solid point.

We agree with Minor that the electronics search condition imposed here is unconstitutionally overbroad because it is not narrowly tailored to achieve its ostensible purpose or to meet Minor’s needs. [...] Any connection between Minor’s offenses and his usage of electronic devices is speculative and, absent such evidence, the electronics search condition is not tailored to meet Minor’s specific needs.

As the court points out, there are less intrusive ways of achieving the same ends and it's highly unlikely blanket search permission for every single electronic device owned by the minor is the least intrusive option. It's also unlikely blanket search permission would somehow prevent the minor from obtaining drugs or alcohol.

Not only that, but the state's arguments for this supposed necessity ignored evidence showing more probation stipulations weren't needed to keep the minor from engaging in criminal activity.

In an interview with probation before the September 2016 dispositional hearing, Minor acknowledged having made poor decisions in the past, but stated he had new motivation to complete treatment and probation going forward, and that he had a new job, which was making a positive impact on his life.

Minor’s statements about his mindset were supported by his school’s report that it had no concerns with Minor’s behavior, that Minor arrived on time, completed all of his work, was “doing great,” and was “exhibiting a positive attitude.” Minor’s mother and his treatment program provided similar accounts. This information does not support the conclusion that only by subjecting Minor to a new, exhaustive, and invasive search condition—allowing probation to review every electronic device under his control, including any “gaming consoles, mobile devices, tablets, storage media devices, thumb drives, Micro SD cards, [and] external hard drives” and to access all of his “passwords, passcodes, password patterns, fingerprints, or other [similar] information”—could Minor be deterred from future use of controlled substances.

That strikes these conditions from the minor's probationary terms, restoring the privacy the state tried to take from him. The state insisted on defending this Constitutional violation despite having zero precedential support to cite. The closest it could come to a prior case in its favor involved a gang member who promoted his gang and its activity on social media when not using those platforms to issue threats to police officers and their families. That's not even close to the same level of severity in observed behavior. As the minor notes in his case, the state AG didn't even provide evidence the minor owned any of the devices the state decided it needed access to. But when you're playing Constitutional poker with someone else's money, why not take a flier on bullshit probation orders?


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  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 21 Jun 2018 @ 2:13am

    'Hello fellow drug users who are, like me, not cops!'

    I suspect that the reason behind this attempt at trampling his rights might have been due to someone realizing that they had a former drug user on a leash via a very friendly judge, and as such could use his accounts to try to find others to bust, possibly by using his accounts to pretend to be him, 'looking for a fix'.

    After all, if it's good enough for the DEA, it's certainly good enough for the regular 'combatants' in The War on Drugs.

    The alternatives are that they refused to believe that he'd changed and figured that a baseless fishing expedition of his various accounts and possessions would find something they could use to slam him with, because clearly once a user always a user, or simply 'because why not?', neither of which leave them looking any better.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 21 Jun 2018 @ 5:18am

      Re: 'Hello fellow drug users who are, like me, not cops!'

      "because clearly once a user always a user,"

      According to a lot of support groups this is mostly true, not specifically in always a user perspective but definitely once an addict always an addict.

      I don't really subscribe to this wholesale because I suspect a lot of support groups over advance this notion to stay relevant/alive which is not necessarily a bad thing either, but some people can indeed break the addiction, it's just that there are also a lot of people that cannot break their addiction either and it is usually a safer bet to bank on people getting addicted and staying addicted than the opposite.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      David, 21 Jun 2018 @ 5:21am

      Re: 'Hello fellow drug users who are, like me, not cops!'

      I suspect that the reason behind this attempt at trampling his rights might have been due to someone realizing that they had a former drug user on a leash via a very friendly judge, and as such could use his accounts to try to find others to bust, possibly by using his accounts to pretend to be him, 'looking for a fix'.

      Yet another week where I cannot hold a grudge for losing out on an "Insightful Post" award. That makes so much more sense than the ostensible pretenses that it isn't funny.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 21 Jun 2018 @ 5:29am

        Re: Re: 'Hello fellow drug users who are, like me, not cops!'

        What passes for insightful around this place is downright lame.

        You can figure this stuff out watching TV Police dramas or just reading up about the war on drugs or crime in general. In fact the police using past offenders to catch other offenders is so damn old hat that... well shit I give up... go ahead be impressed. Doesn't take much these days with you guys eh?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 21 Jun 2018 @ 5:39am

          Re: Re: Re: 'Hello fellow drug users who are, like me, not cops!'

          Considering the alternative is out_of_the_blue and Richard Bennett?

          Sure, I'll take "impressed".

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Bruce C., 21 Jun 2018 @ 1:32pm

          Re: Re: Re: 'Hello fellow drug users who are, like me, not cops!'

          Is that you, Krogoth?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anon, 21 Jun 2018 @ 1:55pm

      Re: 'Hello fellow drug users who are, like me, not cops!'

      Maybe I'm just an old fart, but I am astounded that someone got charged and convicted and put on probation for what he was alleged to have had - papers, lighter, and small folding knife. My father was born in 1924 and was stopped about 20 years ago with my nieces going into Six Flags with his Swiss Army Knife. All he had to do was return to the car and put it away. I have trouble imagining any of those items being worth prosecuting a teen. As for drug use "the night before" i.e. not in school - none of the school's business; and since the court didn't catch him in flagrante with the stuff, none of the court's business either.

      Seriously, when did the USA become Stalin's Russia?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        R.H. (profile), 21 Jun 2018 @ 8:45pm

        Re: Re: 'Hello fellow drug users who are, like me, not cops!'

        The knife in a school got him arrested and placed on probation, while on probation he was caught with marijuana and Xanax. That's what led to all the rest of the crap. Even if it's small, you can't have a knife at a school, it's considered a weapon now.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Jun 2018 @ 5:38am

    the flip side

    In these days of armchair quarterbacking school killings, the schools and cops are always the ones blamed for missing something. Any kid caught with a weapon in school in direct violation of school policies and/or laws should be subject to probable cause searches.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Sok Puppette, 21 Jun 2018 @ 6:32am

    The incident leading to the search began when the student fell asleep during class, which is possibly one of the most ordinary things a student can do. The student admitted he had smoked marijuana the night before (also possibly one of the most normal things a high school student can do), but hadn't smoked any that day or on school property. He was asked to consent to a search and he volunteered he had a knife in his possession. The search uncovered the rest of the "contraband." The 15-year-old was then arrested, detained, and placed on home detention.

    Had that been the end of it, there would have been nothing to write about.

    Nothing to write about.

    Kid falls asleep and that "justifies" the Third Degree. That's something to write about.

    Kid stupidly admits smoking the DKW the night before, and for some reason that justifies searching him now. That's something to write about.

    A search uncovers the following items:

    • A pocket knife. A mundane object that everybody should carry all the time, but has been banned from schools by worthless panicky morons.

    • A lighter. Another mundane object.

    • Rolling papers. An item with some connection to the use of a drug that the government has no legitimate authority to outlaw... and also usable, albeit admittedly not legally by the kid, with a much more dangerous drug that the government for some reason does not outlaw.

    Laws based in psychotic paranoid delusions and monkey-brain lust for punishment make possession of these mundane and/or non-illegal items an arrestable offense that gets you on probation to begin with. That's something to write about.

    All of those are part of the same pattern of moronic tyrranical bullshit as the idiotic and unreasonable release condition. If you don't see the connection, you're not looking very hard.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 21 Jun 2018 @ 7:13am

    Oh, they didn't anally probe him or tased his crotch? Bah, law enforcement is getting soft these days.

    /s (just in case)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Jun 2018 @ 7:23am

    So want to bet that the 'minor' had some cute friends?

    I'm sure the 'probation officer' wasn't just looking for some teen sexting pictures....

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    stderric (profile), 21 Jun 2018 @ 7:44am

    It's assumed (wrongly) that minors have few, if any, Constitutional rights.

    So, kids do have Constitutional rights -- you think they'd mind telling the rest of us where they got 'em? (I've been asking around, and this country seems pretty damn dry right now. You gotta pay through the nose just to get the low-grade shit that's been cut with crap like 'national security' and 'third party doctrine' and 'good faith'...)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 21 Jun 2018 @ 11:05am

    Umm

    1 step further away from the logic that created this country..

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 21 Jun 2018 @ 11:51am

    WE WILL KEEP FSCKING YOU UNTIL YOU LEARN TO BEHAVE!!!!!!!!!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Barry Obama, 22 Jun 2018 @ 12:58am

    They want child porn

    Its obvious the probation officer wanted this in order to view pictures of underage hotties on the phone. Fucking pedophiles

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Rogs DickPics, 23 Jun 2018 @ 10:22pm

    ManassasDick Pic CopSuicide.

    And the Manassas Dick Pic cop~who tried to force a young boys erection with a court order, and a syringe.

    Turns out thatcop~who worked the Internet Crimes Against Insight into the US child pornography distrubution network, was a child rapist himself.

    All perverts work in policing, and the sex crimes units are full of pedophiles who hide behind the badge.

    Here is Copblocks archives on that case.

    https://www.copblock.org/tag/dick-pic-cop/

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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