Constitution and art. 14 of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights is "reasonableness."
The question here, then, is whether the solicitation of written pledges from the studentswas "reasonable." Due to the gravity of the threat, and the context in which it was made,this minimally intrusive action was reasonable and, thus, legally permissible.Our state Supreme Court has held that students do not have an expectation ofprivacy in their handwriting.
In that case (Buccella), high school officials had providedthe police with handwriting samples to help identify the student responsible forvandalizing a school room and scrawling racial slurs on a blackboard. Handwriting,reasoned the court, is "repeatedly shown to the public, and there is no more expectationof privacy in the physical characteristics of a person's script than there is in the tone ofhis voice."
Nonetheless, students may expect that papers turned in to school personnel, suchas the homework in Buccella, will not be disseminated beyond the school setting. But a"mere expectation that the person to whom an item is entrusted will use it for limitedpurposes and not reveal it to others does not give rise to a reasonable expectation ofprivacy under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution."
The court in
Buccella assumed, without deciding, that a student would have such an expectation inthose particular writing samples because homework is compulsory (but concluded thatthe actions of the school officials "easily" met the standard of reasonableness based onthe nature of the crime and "minimal intrusion" of student's privacy).
involved here, by contrast, were not compulsory. But even assuming that the studentshad a reasonable expectation that the pledges would not be disclosed outside the school,the actions were still permissible.Ordinarily, the police must have a particularized reason to believe that anindividual person was involved in criminality to justify a search or seizure. But "whenurgent considerations of the public safety require compromise with the normal principlesconstraining law enforcement, the normal principles may have to bend."
have held that the need to protect or preserve life or avoid serious injury is justificationfor what would be otherwise illegal, absent an exigency or emergency."
the police may set up dragnet-style roadblock to apprehend a dangerous gunman.
magnitude of a threatened harm may demand a response regardless of the presence orabsence of particularized suspicion of individual wrongdoing.
United States v. Mara,
410 U.S. 19, 21 (1973).
Id. at 484.ti Id. at 484-485.
Edmond v. Goldsmith,
183 F.3d 659, 663
531 U.S. 32 (2000).
Commonwealth v. Samuel,
80 Mass. App. Ct. 560, 562-563 (2011).
Commonwealth v. Grant,
57 Mass. App. Ct. 334 (2003).
See also Edmond v. Goldsmith, supra
("Wemay assume that if the Indianapolis police had a credible tip that a car loaded with dynamite and driven byan unidentified terrorist was en route to downtown Indianapolis, they would not be violating theConstitution if they blocked all the roads to the downtown area even though this would amount to stoppingthousands of drivers without suspecting any one of them of criminal activity").
Commonwealth v. Entwistle,
463 Mass. 205, 213 (2012).
Commonwealth v. Buccella,
434 Mass. 473, 476 (2001).