Anonymous Tip and Snapchat Were Reasonable Suspicion for School Search

By William Vogeler, Esq. on January 05, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Who is more stupid -- the student who takes a gun to school, or the one who posts a video of it on social media?

In this case, that would be the same kid. Fortunately for him, police confiscated the weapon and he became a ward of the court and not a statistic in People v. K.J.

Meanwhile, his attorney argued that the police searched the boy without reasonable suspicion. So, who is more stupid...?

Suspicious Video

It started when a student sent a text to an assistant principal saying, "there's a guy with a loaded gun at Yeto." That meant Sam Yeto High School, a credit recovery school at the Fairfield High School campus in California.

The assistant principal contacted police and located the tipster, who wanted to remain anonymous. The girl said she got a message via Snapchat with a video of a student, sitting in a classroom with a gun and a magazine clip.

The tipster said she recognized the student, but didn't know his name. The assistant principal came up with two names, and the tipster identified one of them as the suspect.

The principal then escorted the suspect from the classroom, and police arrested him outside. They found a semi-automatic pistol and ammunition on him.

Motion to Suppress

The minor was charged with felony possession of a firearm and related crimes. His attorney sought to suppress the evidence, arguing that police had no "reasonable grounds" to suspect he was carrying a gun.

The tipster could not reliably identify the boy from the video, the lawyer said, and the police did not see it until after the arrest. That didn't matter, said the state's First District Court of Appeal. Plus, the assistant principal provided the suspect's name from the tipster's description.

"Under these circumstances, any failure to watch the video prior to contacting appellant did not diminish the reliability of the information provided by the student tipster," the appeals court said.

Recently, both state and federal courts have upheld searches based on similar tipster identifications. In Iowa, a federal court said a tip about suspected bank robbers was reliable based on surrounding circumstances.

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