All young people going back to school have to be very careful about exposing themselves to certain charges and one charge is being in possession of an illegal substance or weapon at school.
Students may think that they have complete privacy in their locker but that’s not necessarily the case. Their lockers are deemed to be school property, and if the authorities believe they have grounds to search, then the school principal or the authorities can go in and search someone’s locker. Generally, in order to search there have to be some grounds, but random searches by police and principals have been allowed.
Young people have to be very aware of their rights. Being in possession of an illegal substance does not just mean having control of it, it means having knowledge. So even though something is found in one’s locker, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the person is in possession. They may be in actual control of it, but they don’t necessarily have knowledge. It is possible that someone else has their lock combination or key to their locker and could have stored the substance or weapon there. Students need to be very cognizant and in control of their property, including their books, school and lunch bags, and lockers. Students have to vigilantly police and monitor their belongings to make sure that nobody sets them up or gets them in trouble by storing someone else’s drugs among their property.
If the school determines that there’s been an infraction, they can keep it in-house and suspend the student, which means he or she is removed from classes or the school property for a certain period of time. They could expel a student, if there were sufficient grounds, and the student would have to attend another school. If serious drugs or trafficking are involved, police will probably be contacted and the person will have to answer to a criminal charge in court.
Students need to know that they have no obligation to speak once they‘ve been accused of something. There’s no obligation to speak to the authorities, including the school principal. The young person’s parents need to be advised and the young person should be advised that he or she has the right to consult a lawyer. There’s no reason that the young person should feel compelled to cooperate with the authorities by speaking to them, be it a school principal, a school resource officer, or a street police officer.
If you, or someone you care about, is dealing with criminal law issues in the Ottawa, Ontario Region, contact Engel and Associates for a consultation.