State v. McKinnon

In State v. McKinnon (1977) 88 Wn.2d 75 [558 P.2d 781] the local police chief received a call from a confidential informant that two high school students were selling "speed," which was located in their pockets. The police chief contacted the students' high school principal and related the informant's information. The principal said he would talk to the students and get back to the police chief. The principal summoned one student (Yates) into the principal's office and, simultaneously, the vice-principal summoned the other student (McKinnon) into the vice-principal's office. When Yates emptied all but one pocket in response to the principal's request to empty all his pockets, the principal reached into that pocket and recovered pills. The principal then entered the vice-principal's office, reached into McKinnon's pocket, and found pills. The pills found on the students were later determined to be amphetamines. Thereafter, the principal called the police chief, who went to the school and arrested the students. (558 P.2d at pp. 782-783.) The students contended that even if, in general, a school official could conduct a search on reasonable grounds, the particular searches of the students were invalid because they were "instigated" by the police chief. (Id. at p. 785.) McKinnon noted that joint action by a law enforcement officer and a private person may constitute "police action," but concluded there was no joint action in that case. The decision noted that the police chief never instructed the principal to search the students or detain them, and never directed or even suggested to the principal that a search should be conducted. Instead, the police chief "merely relayed the information he had received to the principal, and the principal then acted independently" in contacting the students. (McKinnon, supra, 558 P.2d at p. 785.) The court stated, "[t]he fact that the principal called the chief of police after conducting the search does not indicate complicity. If the principal had received this information from sources other than the police, he then would be under a duty both to conduct a search and notify the police of his discoveries. We find no difference here where the information was merely relayed to the principal by the chief of police." (Ibid.)