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Searching cars in school parking lots to find student crimes

The arrest of a Cobb County, GA, high school student is an example of the injustice that can occur to an innocent person.

It is always wise to follow the law, but sometimes people break the law without realizing it.

For the love of fishing

The jaw-dropping incident involving deputies from the Cobb County Sheriff’s Department occurred in 2013. Along with their K9 companion, the deputies were checking a high school parking lot for any signs of trouble. The dog sniffed at one car, and it turned out it detected a firecracker left over from a Fourth of July celebration beneath the seat. There was no crime in that, but the firecracker led the officers to search the car thoroughly. They found a tackle box with the usual fishing tools, including a fillet knife and three other utility knives.

The charge

The car and tackle box belonged to a 17-year-old high school student. The police pulled the student out of class and charged him with a felony: Carrying a Weapon in a School Safety Zone. This charge falls under a Georgia law, which lists a number of inanimate objects that people cannot have in their possession when in the vicinity of a school.

Not the only incident

A month earlier, a senior at another Cobb County high school met a similar fate based on a tip from a classmate. The claim was that smoke emanated from the window of the car belonging to the senior, and this classmate said it smelled like pot. The tip was sufficient to allow school administrators to search the car. They did not find marijuana. What they did find was a pocket knife in the console. The young man, who had once been in a horrific car crash, kept it in case of emergency so he could cut his way out of a seatbelt.

Protecting rights

In both cases, having a knife in a locked car was reasonable, but law enforcement did not see it that way. A criminal defense attorney will tell you that the arrest for a potential felony comes with many questions and concerns. The first step in terms of a defense is always to protect the rights of anyone so charged, including a student whose only crime seemed to be the enjoyment of fishing.

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