BOISE — The Idaho Supreme Court has ruled that the parents of a girl who committed petit theft can’t be forced to undergo drug tests as a condition of their daughter’s probation.
In the unanimous ruling Tuesday, the high court found that while state law allowed a Kootenai County juvenile court judge to require that the parents undergo random drug testing, the practice violates the U.S. Constitution’s protection against unreasonable searches.
The Idaho Supreme Court justices said that even though the daughter had committed a crime, the parents didn’t have any diminished expectation of privacy.
The parents were referred to as John Doe and Jane Doe II in the case to keep their daughter’s identity from being revealed.
The case began in 2005, when the parents appeared without an attorney in magistrate court with their daughter, who was a minor. The daughter admitted to two counts of petit theft, and was put on probation at her disposition (the juvenile court equivalent of a sentencing) a month later.
But the judge decided to impose some terms on her parents as well, because an investigation done in preparation for the disposition showed that the parents had a history of drug abuse and that the mother was on probation for possession of marijuana drug paraphernalia.
Magistrate Judge Robert Burton asked the parents about their drug use, according to court records, and both said they’d used marijuana. As a result, Burton required both parents to undergo random drug tests as a term of their daughter’s probation.
Some time later, the daughter was found to have violated her probation for various reasons — none of them involving drugs — and her parents tested positive for marijuana. Burton continued the girl’s probation and again required the parents to undergo random drug tests, warning them they could be subject to contempt of court proceedings if they used drugs.
But this time around, the parents refused to sign the court’s probation order and appealed the terms of probation.
The Idaho Supreme Court justices said the lower court judge’s intentions were laudable and met the goals of Idaho’s state laws designed to help juveniles become contributing members of society. And the high court said that under state law, the lower court was correct: “… the legislature gave magistrates the discretion to require drug testing for parents, at least where it is apparent that drug use is a feature of home life,” Justice Warren Jones wrote for the court. “Drug use by a minor’s parents could reasonably detract from the minor’s education and rehabilitation.”
Still, the high court found the probation order violated the parents’ Fourth Amendment rights because it intruded on their bodily privacy.
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