Eddie and Shooting Range Eddie, a student at Lakeview High School, went to the shooting range with his father. His father had given him a .38 revolver for his 18th birthday, and Eddie wanted to practice shooting it. After the shooting range, Eddie forgot to take the loaded .38 revolver out of his car, and instead left it on the floor in front of the passenger seat of his truck. Eddie went to school the next day and parked in the school parking lot, as usual. Mr. Moore, a school administrator, regularly walks through the parking lot at school, checking to see if cars are parked in the right spots, and have permits. While walking through the parking lot Mr. Moore looked through Eddie’s truck window to check his permit sticker and saw the .38 revolver on the floor of Eddie’s truck. Mr. Moore then called the police. Eddie was subsequently suspended and arrested. Eddie claims that he didn’t mean to bring the gun to school, he just forgot the gun was in his truck. He also claims that he is 18 and had the gun lawfully.
Re: Search and Seizure Do you think that Mr. Moore violated Eddie’s rights in looking through his car window without a warrant or Eddie’s consent? [No. The Fourth Amendment protects people from unreasonable intrusions into their reasonable expectations of privacy. So, a person has a Fourth Amendment right when he has a reasonable expectation of privacy. A person does not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in an object left in plain-view to the public. Thus, Eddie did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the gun, since Mr. Moore could plainly see it by looking through Eddie’s window, and he did not have to get inside Eddie’s car to find it.]
Say the door to the truck was unlocked, could Mr. Moore have opened Eddie’s truck and seized the revolver without a warrant? [Yes. Under the plain view doctrine, police may make a warrantless seizure when they: (i) are legitimately on the premises; (ii) discover evidence, fruits or instrumentalities of crime, or contraband; (iii) see such evidence in plain view; and (iv) have probable cause to believe (i.e., it must be immediately apparent) that the item is evidence, contraband, or a fruit or instrumentality of crime. Coolidge v. New Hampshire, 403 U.S. 443 (1971); Arizona v. Hicks, 480 U.S. 321 (1987)].
Does it matter that Mr. Moore isn’t a police officer but a school administrator? [No, public school administrators are state actors of the Fourth Amendment and are subject to the constitutional prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures. New Jersey v. T.L.O., 469 U.S. 325, 333-34, 341 (1985).]
Re: Firearm on School Property What law did Eddie break? [Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-308.1 criminalizes the possession of weapons (including certain knives and firearms) within any public, private or religious elementary, middle or high school.]
Does it matter that Mr. Moore found the gun in Eddie’s truck in the parking lot, instead of in the school itself, like if Eddie had brought it in his jacket or backpack? [No. Under § 18.2-308.1(B)(i) it is illegal to possess a firearm not only in a school building, but also on school grounds.] Additionally, § 18.2-308.1(B)(iii) criminalizes possession of a firearm on a school bus, even when off school grounds
Would it have mattered if Eddie had parked his truck in the school parking lot at night, after school hours, for a high school football game? [No. § 18.2-308.1 does criminalizes the possession of a firearm on school grounds at all times, not just during hours of operation or during the weekdays. Additionally, § 18.2-308.1(B)(ii) criminalizes possession of a firearm on other non-school property if (1) that property is open to the public, (2) is used exclusively for school-sponsored functions or extracurricular activities, and (3) such school functions are taking place.]
Does it matter that Eddie was over 18 and so could possess the gun lawfully? [No. It does not matter that Eddie had the gun legally and was 18, he could not bring it onto school property.]
Did it matter that Eddie did not purposefully bring the gun to school? [No. The Virginia Supreme Court in Esteban v. Commonwealth, 266 Va. 605, 587 S.E.2d 523 (2003) held that “this statute is one of strict criminal liability, and that the Commonwealth [is] required to prove only that the defendant had possessed, on school property, a firearm of the type described in the statute.” Esteban, 166 Va. at 610, 587 S.E.2d at 526. “[T]he intent underlying Code § 18.2-308.1(B) is to assure that a safe environment exists on or about school grounds. Manifestly, the General Assembly recognized that the presence of a loaded revolver on school property creates great dangers for students, teachers, and other school personnel, either from the accidental or intentional discharge of the weapon. The fact that a person, under the circumstances of this case, innocently brings a loaded revolver onto school property does not diminish that danger.” Id.]