State v. S.R.G., 012021 WACA, 53419-3-II

Docket Nº:53419-3-II
Opinion Judge:SUTTON, A.C.J.
Party Name:STATE OF WASHINGTON, Respondent, v. S.R.G., Appellant.
Judge Panel:We concur: WORSWICK, J., MAXA, J.
Case Date:January 20, 2021
Court:Court of Appeals of Washington

STATE OF WASHINGTON, Respondent,

v.

S.R.G., Appellant.

No. 53419-3-II

Court of Appeals of Washington, Division 2

January 20, 2021

UNPUBLISHED OPINION

SUTTON, A.C.J.

SRG was found guilty of possession of 40 grams or less of marijuana while under the age of 21. SRG appeals her order on adjudication and disposition.

We hold that the school officials' search of SRG's bags was justified at its inception, reasonably related in scope, and reasonable under all of the circumstances. Consequently, we affirm SRG's order on adjudication and disposition.

FACTS

On January 30, 2019, a student reported to Shaun Campbell, a teacher at Castle Rock High School, that another student, SRG, was in possession of and had been observed using a vape pen. Being in possession of or using vape products on school grounds violated school policy. Campbell escorted SRG to the office of Principal Ryan Greene. When Campbell and Greene asked SRG if she had anything in her bags that violated school policy, SRG responded that she had "vape juice" in her bag. Clerk's Papers (CP) at 63; Ex. 2. SRG "started to dig in her bag," and as she did, Greene told her that he and Campbell were "going to search all of her bags." Ex. 2. SRG did not say or do anything further. During the search, Campbell discovered marijuana, a vape pen, vape juice, cigarettes, and a glass pipe in one of SRG's bags. After discovering the contraband, Greene called law enforcement. The State charged SRG with possession of 40 grams or less of marijuana while under the age of 21. SRG moved to suppress the evidence from the search.

At the hearing, the juvenile court found it reliable that another student identified SRG by name possessing and using and a vape pen. The court concluded that the school officials had reasonable suspicion to believe that SRG, who had been seen using a vape pen and said she had vape juice in her bag, likely still had the vape products in the bags with her. School policy prohibited students from possessing or using these products. The court also found that the use of a vape pen, vape juice, and cigarettes is a problem in schools. Thus, the court concluded that it was reasonable under all of these circumstances for the school officials to search the bags SRG had with her. The court found that the search was limited in scope because SRG said she had vape juice and the school officials searched only the bags she had with her in the office. The court determined that not to search SRG's bags may have resulted in the vape juice being destroyed or disposed of and the intrusion of the search was outweighed by the school's interest in maintaining order and discipline. Thus, the court denied the motion to suppress.

The parties agreed to a stipulated bench trial. The State admitted three exhibits: a statement by Campbell, a statement by Greene, and the police report. Based on the statements and police report, the court found SRG guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of possession of 40 grams or less of marijuana. SRG appeals.

ANALYSIS

SRG argues that the juvenile court erred when it concluded that the search was justified at its inception, the search of her bags was reasonably related in scope, and the search was reasonable under all of the circumstances. We hold that the search was justified from its inception, the search of her bags was reasonably related in scope, and the search was reasonable under all of the circumstances. Thus, we hold that the juvenile court did not err by denying SRG's motion to suppress. We affirm the order on adjudication and disposition.

I. Standard of Review

"In reviewing the denial of a motion to suppress, we review the [juvenile] court's conclusions of law de novo and its findings of fact used to support those conclusions for substantial evidence." State v. Fuentes, 183 Wn.2d 149, 157, 352P.3d 152 (2015). However, "we will review only those facts to which error has been assigned." State v. Hill, 123 Wn.2d 641, 647, 870 P.2d 313 (1994). If the defendant does not challenge the findings of fact, then we consider them verities on appeal. State v. Bliss, 153 Wn.App. 197, 203, 222 P.3d 107 (2009). We review conclusions of law from an order denying a motion to suppress de novo. State v. Mecham, 186 Wn.2d 128, 137, 380 P.3d 414 (2016).

II. The School Search Exception

School authorities may conduct a warrantless search of a student without probable cause if the search is "reasonable under all the circumstances." State v. A.S., 6 Wn.App. 2d 264, 268, 430 P.3d 703 (2018). '"A search is reasonable if it is: (1) justified at its inception; and (2) reasonably related in scope to the circumstances that justified the interference in the first place.'" A.S., 6 Wn.App. 2d at 268 (quoting State v. B.A.S., 103 Wn.App. 549, 553, 13 P.3d 244 (2000) (citing New Jersey v. T.L.O., 469 U.S. 325, 341, 105 S.Ct. 733, 83 L.Ed.2d 720 (1985))). "'Under ordinary...

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