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The District of Columbia Court of Appeals holds that where the police have entered the common, public areas of a school building without excessive force to investigate a criminal complaint, school personnel who have been charged with assault of one of those police officers within the school are not entitled to the defense of property defense.
The school principal had a history of dissatisfaction with the reporter's stories, and ordered her out of the building when she found her interviewing a student. An altercation ensued, resulting in the reporter’s notebook being taken by the employees of a charter school. Police officers arrived at the scene – this, however, did not stop the school employees from using force even against the police officers themselves. Subsequently, defendant former school employees were convicted of simple assault. On appeal, defendants argued that they had been improperly prevented from presenting the defense that they were protecting their property against trespassers.
Under the circumstances, could the defendants justify their use of force based on the premise that they were defending their property?
The appellate court held, first, that defendants lacked standing to challenge the search of the premises because they had no reasonable expectation of privacy in an unlocked, publicly funded charter school. Furthermore, they could not raise a defense that they were defending their property. For one thing, the use of force was unreasonable, particularly against police officers. For another, the credible evidence indicated that the principal was not being accurate when she claimed that the notebook in which the reporter had been writing belonged to the principal.