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In re K.S.

March 25, 2010

IN RE K.S., A PERSON COMING UNDER THE JUVENILE COURT LAW.
THE PEOPLE, PLAINTIFF AND RESPONDENT,
v.
K.S., DEFENDANT AND APPELLANT.



(Alameda County Super. Ct. No. SJ08011299-01). Dennis Hayashi, Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Simons, Acting P.J.

CERTIFIED FOR PARTIAL PUBLICATION*fn1

In its landmark decision on searches of students by school officials, the United States Supreme Court concluded such searches were justified if " `reasonable,' " though no warrant had been obtained and the "probable cause" required for a police search did not exist. (New Jersey v. T.L.O. (1985) 469 U.S. 325, 341 (T.L.O.).) The high court declined, however, to determine the applicable standard when the school officials conduct the search "in conjunction with or at the behest of law enforcement agencies." (Id. at p. 341, fn. 7.) The facts of our case directly raise this issue. In the published portion of this opinion, we conclude that when a school official independently decides to search a student and then conducts that search, the T.L.O. standard applies, even if the police provide the information justifying the search and are present when it occurs. In the unpublished portion, we apply the reasonable suspicion standard to our facts and uphold the trial court's decision to deny the motion to suppress filed by appellant K.S. In addition, we accept appellant's argument, conceded by the People, that a minute order reflecting a three-year maximum term of commitment is erroneous and must be stricken.

BACKGROUND*fn2

Around 12:45 p.m. on September 25, 2008, Livermore Narcotics Detective Harrison received a message from a confidential informant that appellant, a student at Livermore High School, possessed Ecstasy pills, hidden in a slit in his pants. Harrison had used this informant before; the informant's information had led to two prior arrests; and no information Harrison received from the informant had previously been found untruthful.

After receiving the tip, Harrison contacted Livermore Police Officer Cabral, the school resource officer at Granada High School. Harrison advised Cabral of the tip and asked him to follow up on it. Cabral then contacted Ann Harter Dolid,*fn3 the vice-principal of Livermore High School, and summarized what Harrison had told him. Cabral did not ask Dolid to search or further investigate appellant. Cabral then informed Harrison that he had contacted Dolid and provided her with the information. Thereafter, Harrison went to the school to see if the school was going to follow up on the information given to Dolid. Harrison did not ask the school to do any follow up.

Because the information came from Cabral, Dolid believed the tip to be reliable. Thereafter, Dolid confirmed appellant was at school that day. She then decided to search appellant to ensure the safety of the school's students. According to Dolid, having drugs on the school campus "compromises the safety of our students." Dolid ascertained that appellant was scheduled for a physical education (P.E.) class and she had a school security officer verify that appellant was present at that class and dressed for P.E. After learning that appellant was in the P.E. class and was not wearing his street clothes, Dolid decided to search appellant's P.E. locker.

Dolid, accompanied by Harrison and Livermore Police Detective Sergeant Conley, went to appellant's P.E. locker and a campus supervisor opened it. Dolid said she had the police officers accompany her "[b]ecause [she] didn't feel comfortable if [she] had found something[,] keeping it on [her] person across campus. [She] wanted to be able to have them with [her] so that . . . [she] felt comfortable and safe." However, she did not ask either Harrison or Conley to conduct the search.

Dolid searched the locker and found the jeans with the slit. Inside the slit was a plastic bag containing several pills. Dolid then took the pants to the school office, and appellant was detained. Dolid suspected the pills found were Ecstasy, and Harrison later confirmed that suspicion. Cabral arrived at the school after the search was completed and told Dolid the amount of Ecstasy found was consistent with possession for sale.

A juvenile court petition was subsequently filed against appellant (Welf. & Inst. Code, § 602), alleging he possessed Ecstasy (Health & Saf. Code, § 11377). After filing an unsuccessful motion to suppress (Welf. & Inst. Code, § 700.1), appellant admitted the offense. He appeals the dispositional order making him a ward of the juvenile court and placing him on home probation.

DISCUSSION

I. Standard of Review*fn4

"The standard of review of a trial court's ruling on a motion to suppress is well established and is equally applicable to juvenile court proceedings. ` "On appeal from the denial of a suppression motion, the court reviews the evidence in a light favorable to the trial court's ruling. [Citation.] We must uphold those express or implied findings of fact by the trial court that are supported by substantial evidence and independently determine whether the facts ...


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