(844) 815-9632

consent to search

Facebook Password Lawsuit: School Settles for $70K

A Minnesota school has agreed to fork over $70,000 for demanding a sixth-grader reveal her Facebook password. Riley Stratton, now 15, painfully remembers when Minnewaska school officials cornered her over a Facebook post and threatened her with suspension, reports the Star Tribune. The confrontation ended with Stratton relinquishing her password, but thanks to the ACLU's intervention, its ultimate end was the school cutting a check. What were the legal reasons behind the school's Facebook password settlement? Right to Students' Facebook Passwords? According to an ACLU press release, the American Civil Liberties Union branch in Minnesota filed a lawsuit on Stratton's behalf in 2012 claiming that a number of her civil rights had been violated by the school demanding access to her Facebook account. The suit centered on the treatment of Stratton for conduct via Facebook performed outside of school, some of which was alleged to have been of "a sexual nature," reports the Star Tribune. Employers have been treading a legal line in asking for employees' Facebook passwords, but with the threat of cyberbullying, it seems all the more important in schools. Minnewaska Superintendent Greg Schmidt told the Star Tribune that the school just wanted "to make kids aware that their actions outside school can be detrimental." Wallace Hilke, the ACLU attorney for Stratton's case, believes that "[k]ids' use of social media is the family's business" -- not the school's. Stratton's school didn't admit any liability in the settlement, but there will be some changes in its Facebook policies. Settlement Order Promises Change Under the terms of the settlement, the Strattons agreed to drop their claims, as long as the school makes some changes regarding how it handles social media incidents. Minnewaska schools have agreed to: Require students to give up their passwords or account info to school administrators only when there is "reasonable suspicion" they will uncover a violation of school rules; Amend the student handbook to note that students are free to withhold consent to search backpacks or other items, including their Facebook accounts, without the threat of additional discipline; and Train faculty and staff on the policy changes. These changes may be a bit late for Stratton, but they may prevent other students from feeling unduly harassed by school officials about their Facebook passwords. Related Resources: ACLU wins settlement over student's Facebook post (The Associated Press) Can Schools Monitor Students on Social Media? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Asking for Passwords? You May Be Asking for Trouble (FindLaw's Free Enterprise) Daughter's Facebook 'SUCK IT' Post Nixes Dad's $80K Settlement (FindLaw's Decided)
continue reading

Warrantless Home Search OK If 1 Occupant Consents: Sup. Ct.

Police can search a shared home without a warrant as long as an occupant who is present consents to the search, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Tuesday. In a 6-3 decision, the High Court affirmed that police don't need the permission of all occupants in a shared residence, as long as officers have the agreement of at least one resident who is physically present, The Associated Press reports. Does this ruling in Fernandez v. California erode the protection against warrantless searches offered by the Fourth Amendment? Consent to Search a Shared Home One of the founding principles of the Fourth Amendment is the warrant requirement, which obligates law enforcement to obtain a warrant before searching a person or his or her home. There are, however, notable exceptions to the warrant requirement which allow police to search even the most private of places -- like a private residence -- without a warrant. One of the more common sense exceptions to the warrant requirement is when a resident gives the police permission by consenting to the search of his or her home. But what happens when two residents disagree on letting police search their shared home? In Georgia v. Randolph, the U.S. Supreme Court recognized that when police seek to search a shared residence without a warrant, residents can disagree about allowing the search. The Court in Randolph ruled that as long as the resident was physically present and denied the officers entry, the search of the shared home would be illegal with regard to him or her. When You're Gone, No Right to Dispute This Randolph rule only applies when you are physically present to dispute consent to officers wanting to search your shared home without a warrant. In the Fernandez case, Walter Fernandez was in police custody when police asked his abused female partner, Roxanne Rojas, if they could search their home. The U.S. Supreme Court noted that it didn't matter that Fernandez had refused police access to the home moments before he was arrested. What mattered was that Fernandez was not present to object when police returned and requested to search the home -- which Rojas agreed to. The dissent, written by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, worries that this ruling flies in the face of the warrant requirement, and allows police to search homes even when it would be very simple to obtain a warrant first. Related Resources: Supreme Court Allows Disputed Home Searches Without Warrant (NBC News) N.J. Court: Cell Phone Data Tracking Needs Warrant (FindLaw's Blotter) Police DNA Swabs OK Upon Arrest: Supreme Court (FindLaw's Blotter) Can You Refuse to Answer Police Questions? (FindLaw's Blotter)
continue reading