New Jersey v. T.L.O.

LOCATION: Piscataway High School

DOCKET NO.: 83-712
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1981-1986)
LOWER COURT: New Jersey Supreme Court

CITATION: 469 US 325 (1985)
ARGUED: Mar 28, 1984
REARGUED: Oct 02, 1984
DECIDED: Jan 15, 1985

Allan J. Nodes - for the petitioner
Lois De Julio - for the respondent

Facts of the case

T.L.O. was a high school student. School officials searched her purse suspecting she had cigarettes. The officials discovered cigarettes, a small amount of marijuana, and a list containing the names of students who owed T.L.O. money. T.L.O. was charged with possession of marijuana. Before trial, T.L.O. moved to suppress evidence discovered in the search, but the Court denied her motion. The Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court of New Jersey, Middlesex County found her guilty and sentenced her to probation for one year. On appeal, the Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division affirmed the denial of the motion to suppress evidence. The New Jersey Supreme Court reversed, holding that the exclusionary rule of the Fourth Amendment applies to searches and seizures conducted by school officials in public schools.


Does the exclusionary rule apply to searches conducted by school officials in public schools?

Media for New Jersey v. T.L.O.

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 28, 1984 in New Jersey v. T.L.O.

Warren E. Burger:

We will hear arguments next in New Jersey against T.L.O.--

Mr. Nodes, I think you may proceed whenever you are ready.

Allan J. Nodes:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court, this Court granted certiorari to the New Jersey Supreme Court in this case on the issue of the applicability of the Fourth Amendment exclusionary rule, the school searches conducted by school teachers and school officials.

In this case, the respondent was observed smoking a cigarette in a school restroom by a teacher.

The teacher took the student to the vice principal's office, and reported the incident to the vice principal.

After the vice principal left, the student not only denied having smoked in the restroom, but also stated that it couldn't have been her because she didn't even smoke.

After... following this statement, the vice principal asked for the student's purse, and opened the student's purse, finding a pack of cigarettes lying on the top.

He picked up the cigarettes and said something to the effect of,

"You lied to me about smoking cigarettes. "

looked back in the purse, and saw rolling papers for cigarettes.

He believed these were indicative of the presence of drug paraphernalia in the purse, and continued to look through the purse.

He found marijuana and other indications that the marijuana was in the purse for purposes of distribution.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

Mr. Nodes, under New Jersey law, can a minor consent to a search?

Allan J. Nodes:

I don't think there would be any distinction under New Jersey law between a minor consenting to a search and an adult consenting.

New Jersey has a slightly stricter standard than the federal standard concerning consent, and it would have been absolutely necessary that the juvenile be aware of her rights prior to the search taking place in order for it to be a consent search.

Because of this, the state has always conceded that it was not a consent search.

The trial court and the appellate division in New Jersey--

Thurgood Marshall:

You left out one item in the pocketbook, the $40.

Allan J. Nodes:

--I beg your pardon?

Thurgood Marshall:

You left out one item in the pocketbook--

Allan J. Nodes:


Thurgood Marshall:

--which was $40 in $1 bills, which signified that she was selling it.

Allan J. Nodes:

Yes, Your Honor.

Thurgood Marshall:

You left that out.

Allan J. Nodes:

There were also pieces of paper indicating that various other people, Johnny, people like that, owed her $1, $1.25, things like that, and all these items were entered into evidence at the juvenile delinquency proceeding against T.L.O., and they were all evidence of an intention to distribute the marijuana which was found in the purse.

T.L.O. was adjudicated a delinquent as a result of the evidence which was found, and the trial court and the New Jersey Appellate Division found that the search was totally proper.

However, the New Jersey Supreme Court found that the search exceeded reasonable grounds, and therefore found that it was required to exclude the evidence which had been found in the search.

Now, in reaching this decision, the New Jersey Supreme Court found that due to the amount of state action involved, that the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution would apply to this situation, and we have not protested this ruling.

In addition, the New Jersey Supreme Court found that in order for a search to be reasonable under the United States Constitution in the school search context the person conducting the search must have reasonable grounds to believe that the search will uncover evidence of a crime or evidence of a violation of school discipline or school regulations.

William H. Rehnquist:

Mr. Nodes, in your question presented for certiorari, you say whether the Fourth Amendment exclusionary rule applies to searches made by public school officials and teachers in school.