Who am I required to talk to, consent to a search? (in the US)

I get that if I’m stopped or taken in by the police I shouldn’t say a thing until I talk to a lawyer. Is there anyone that I am required to talk to at any time?

My daughter, being two, says some really out there things. What happens if she starts saying these things at daycare and they in turn call CPS. Do I have to even let CPS in the house, or talk to them without consulting a lawyer first?

What about if I witness a bank robbery or murder? Can they force me to talk, or do I still have the right to a lawyer. Does this apply all the way up through the different levels of government, local, state, feds, FBI, Secret Service?

How about the “mall cop” who thinks I’ve stolen something. Do I have to talk to them at all, or let them search me?

This one comes from GD where a girl was stripe searched. Do teenagers have the same rights in not talking to the principal, or consenting to a search? I wouldn’t want any child to think they need to do something like that if they don’t have to.

I had other situations, but right now can’t think of them. Basically I want to know for myself and my family who I can be compelled to talk to. Even though my daughters are young, I will want them to know as well. With what I’ve read on here, and from what I know myself, not a lot of people know their rights.

Start here:

Doesn’t answer all your questions, but it’s a start.

As a witness, you can be compelled to talk and to testify under threat of being charged with impeding an investigation or contempt of court. You still have your Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate yourself and can refuse to answer questions, unless you’ve been granted immunity for your testimony.

You ask a lot of complicated legal questions, many of which don’t have simple answers. In an effort to unpack this a bit, I’ll tackle the following question:

As a general principle, students do not shed their constitutional rights at the schoolhouse doors. See, Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, 393 U.S. 503 (1969). But, many of those rights are subject to balancing tests which frequently result less protection for teens in the school context than adults would otherwise receive. In short, good answers to this question cannot be given in the abstract. It depends a lot on the specific facts, the nature of the search, etc.

You’re asking about two rights here, I think. The Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches and the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

Does the school need consent to perform a search in the same situations as police need consent to search? The answer is: not exactly. Public schools are restrained by the Fourth Amendment. But the thing about the Fourth Amendment is that it protects one against unreasonable searches and seizures. But whether those actions are reasonable depends greatly on the specific circumstances involves. The Supreme Court has held that randomly drug testing student athletes without their consent (except their tacit consent in deciding to become an athlete) is reasonable, but it would not be reasonable to randomly drug test adults in a similar context. One big factor, among others, is whether the search is used for law enforcement purposes (as opposed to, say, school suspension).

On the Fifth Amendment question, failing to answer a principal’s questions can certainly can get a teen in trouble at school. Generally speaking, school punishment is not the kind of incrimination against which the Fifth Amendment protects. And Miranda warnings only apply when you’re in police custody. Beyond that, I’m not really sure how the answers shake out. If you suppose that the principal was asking investigative questions with the intent of turning the information over to law enforcement (or perhaps even expelling a student from school), you might get different results. Which brings up an important caveat: the answer to both questions changes if the school is acting in concert with the police. In that case, the protections for students are higher.