Appeal from order of Court of Common Pleas of Westmoreland County, Jan. T., 1973, No. 54, in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Charles Angelo Dingfelt.
Morrison F. Lewis, Jr., Assistant District Attorney, with him Albert M. Nichols, District Attorney, for Commonwealth, appellant.
William J. Ober, for appellee.
Wright, P. J., Watkins, Jacobs, Hoffman, Cercone, and Spaeth, JJ. (Spaulding, J., absent.) Opinion by Watkins, P. J. Concurring Opinion by Spaeth, J. Hoffman, J., joins in this concurring opinion.
[ 227 Pa. Super. Page 381]
This is an appeal by the Commonwealth from the order of the Court of Common Pleas, Criminal Division, of Westmoreland County, suppressing evidence as illegally obtained. The evidence is essential to the Commonwealth's case in a charge for possession of a controlled substance.
The defendant was an 18 year old senior at Norwin High School when the search and seizure in question took place. On September 22, 1972, on information from a student that the defendant was offering capsules for sale to other students, the school's assistant principal directed the defendant to come to his office and then directed him to empty his pockets and also to take off his shoes. The assistant principal indicated he observed the boy insert something in his shoe or sock. This search resulted in a bottle of capsules being discovered on his person. The assistant principal then took the defendant to the office of the principal and the articles found were placed on the principal's desk and the police called. Miranda warnings were not given to the defendant by any of the school officials. When the police arrived, then Miranda warnings were given. It was stipulated that neither the principal nor the assistant principal extended Miranda warnings to the defendant. There was no contact with the police prior to
[ 227 Pa. Super. Page 382]
the time a call was made from the principal's office. He was charged with possession of a controlled substance. The defendant then petitioned the court below to suppress the evidence. The court suppressed the evidence obtained from the search and this appeal followed.
The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article I, Section 8 of the Pennsylvania Constitution provides protection for citizens against unlawful searches and seizures by sovereign authorities. Had the search been conducted by a police officer it may have been unlawful and unreasonable. However, the constitutional limitations do not extend to private citizens. The evidence obtained pursuant to an unlawful search by a private citizen is admissible at trial since the purpose of the Fourth Amendment is to protect our citizens from unlawful governmental intrusion. Commonwealth v. Tanchyn, 200 Pa. Superior Ct. 148, 188 A.2d 824 (1963).
The issues before this Court are whether the school principal is such an agent of the government so as to require adherence to the Fourth Amendment safeguards and whether the search was reasonable.
In re : Donaldson, 269 Cal. App. 2d 509, 75 Cal. Rptr. 220 (1969), involved a situation where a school official had searched a student's locker without informing the student. In that case the California Court of Appeals found that a vice-principal of the high school is not a government official within the purview of the Fourth Amendment so as to bring into play the prohibitions of unreasonable searches and seizures. The court reasoned that school officials have a duty to maintain order and discipline upon the school premises so that education, teaching and the training of students may be accomplished in an atmosphere of law and order. ...