MSC: Anonymous tip was sufficient for school search, reverses Perreault

The Michigan Supreme Court reversed the decision in People v Perreault, in which a Court of Appeals panel said a school administrator’s search of a student’s vehicle on school grounds violated the defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights.

At issue in that case was whether the school took appropriate steps to verify the information contained in the anonymous tip on which it based its search.

The Supreme Court said it reversed the decision “for the reasons stated in the Court of Appeals dissenting opinion.” The court also rejected a defense argument that the role of the police “rendered this a police search.” The police passed the tip it obtained from an anonymous tip line to a school administrator, and the police’s liaison officer was present during the search, but did not conduct the search himself.

The dissenting judge, Peter D. O’Connell, wrote that the totality of circumstances provided the administrator with “sufficient indicia of reliability to support reasonable suspicion of criminal activity.”

Justice Stephen J. Markman, joined by Justices Maura D. Corrigan, Robert P. Young Jr. and Elizabeth A. Weaver, concurred with the order, writing:

Thus, there was corroborating information to indicate that the tipster’s information was reliable. In my judgment, the tip and the corroborating information were sufficient for school officials to form a particularized suspicion that defendant was, in fact, selling drugs from his truck in the school’s parking lot. Therefore, the search of defendant’s vehicle conducted by school officials on school property did not violate defendant’s constitutional rights. Rather, it was an entirely reasonable search under the Fourth Amendment.

Chief Justice Marilyn Kelly, joined by Justice Michael F. Cavanagh, dissented, saying the case was a close call and that she would grant the parties leave to appeal.

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