When questioned by police, the rights of students are protected by the first 10 Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. The Fourth Amendment in the Bill of Rights says police cannot stop a person, search them or take their belongings without good cause.

Police are also not allowed to arrest someone without probable cause to believe they have committed a crime. Additionally, the Fifth Amendment gives everyone the right not to say anything to officers that might indicate they are guilty.

Understanding your Miranda rights

Nearly all Americans have heard of Miranda rights, but few know what they mean. Studies show nearly 80% of suspects waive those rights and talk to police. Under Miranda rights:

  • You have the right to remain silent
  • Anything you say can be used against you in court
  • You have the right to speak to an attorney and to have one present during any questioning. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided

Students’ rights and police searches

Police can request a search which includes looking through your backpack, locker, car or asking you to empty your pockets. It can also include a pat-down or strip search. A search must be “reasonable” under the circumstances. Here are some common questions:

When can police search you or your belongings? Police can stop you if they have reasonable suspicion that you are involved in illegal activity. They can ask you to identify yourself or pat you down if they believe you have a dangerous weapon. They can keep you detained for a brief period until they determine whether their suspicions are warranted.

Do I have the right to refuse a search? You are protected from unreasonable searches and have a right to refuse if the police do not have a warrant, probable cause or reasonable suspicion. If you agree to a search, it is legal even if they do not have probable cause or a warrant.

Can evidence found during an illegal search be used against you? It is very likely any evidence collected during an illegal search will not be allowed in court. That’s why it’s crucial to ask for an attorney who can challenge any illegally-collected evidence.

Get legal help to protect your rights

Everyone is innocent in the eyes of the law until they are proven guilty. If you are arrested and charged with a crime, calling an attorney is essential for protecting your rights and making sure police had probable cause and followed proper procedures. An experienced criminal defense attorney here in Virginia will defend your rights by developing a viable defense strategy.