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People in the Interest of J.G.

2022 COA 64. No. 20CA0218. Juvenile Delinquency—Fourth Amendment—School Searches—Safety Plan.

June 16, 2022

J.G. attended a public high school. He was adjudicated delinquent for felony menacing and possession of a handgun by a juvenile. Based on this adjudication, the school’s Threat Appraisal Team (Team) completed a full threat appraisal and developed a safety plan for J.G. Subsequently, J.G. was involved in a motor vehicle theft and was placed in detention. The Team conducted another assessment and amended the safety plan to include a new requirement that school personnel would search J.G. every day. On J.G.’s third day back at school, he refused to comply with a request to search his backpack. An officer was called to assist with the backpack search, which revealed a fully loaded handgun. J.G. was arrested, and he moved to suppress the gun. The juvenile court denied the motion and adjudicated J.G. delinquent based on findings that he possessed a handgun as a second-time juvenile offender and possessed a weapon on school grounds.

On appeal, J.G. contended that the juvenile court erred by denying his motion to suppress the gun because school officials discovered it in the course of an unreasonable search of his backpack. New Jersey v. T.L.O., 469 U.S. 325, 341 (1985), governs the reasonableness of a school search and, as relevant here, requires a court to determine whether the search (1) was justified at its inception and (2) was reasonably related in scope to the circumstances that initially justified the interference. A search may be justified at its inception without reasonable suspicion where the record shows that the student had a substantially diminished expectation of privacy in his or her person or property. Here, the school implemented a safety plan for J.G. that included a search requirement that was in effect at the time of the search. Accordingly, J.G. didn’t have a legitimate expectation of privacy in his backpack, and the warrantless search was justified at its inception even without reasonable suspicion of other wrongdoing. Further, the search was reasonable under all the circumstances and therefore legal.

The judgment was affirmed.

Official Colorado Court of Appeals proceedings can be found at the Colorado Court of Appeals website.

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