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What is the Plain View Search and Seizure?

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What is the Plain View Search and Seizure?

“Hi, I’m attorney Kevin Hayslett, and the question is: what are some of the exceptions to a search warrant for a lawful search and what is the plain view doctrine? The plain view doctrine, sometimes called the plain view seizure, allows law enforcement to search and obtain substances if they view it within their plain view and they can substantiate to a judge that when they viewed it they knew it to be illegal. What does that mean? A police offer is walking by your car, you are in car, you are not doing anything illegal, there is no basis for a traffic stop and no basis for him to arrest you, but through your open window the law enforcement officer looks in and sees on the back of seat of your car what appears to be a kilo of cocaine. Well, if law enforcement can articulate to a judge what he observed, the way the item was packaged, the markings on the package, or the size of the package was consistent with his training and experience to be cocaine, that would allow him to make a plain view seizure. That means to take, grab, or obtain the substance and confirm that it is or is not cocaine. If it is confirmed to be cocaine and you are within a distance for the officer to establish dominion or control, he can seize the cocaine and arrest you for possession of cocaine. 

Another example might be that law enforcement is walking by your property and in your backyard you have marijuana plants growing, which he can observe in plain view. Remember, in order to have the plain view doctrine, the position the law enforcement officer is in must be lawful when they make a plain view seizure. That means they cannot be trespassing on your lawn. They cannot be coming into your home without a warrant. They cannot be in a place that they do not have the legal right to be in when they make the plain view seizure. So if the officer is standing on a public side walk and he observes in plain view in your backyard marijuana plants, and based upon his training and experience he recognizes the plants as marijuana, that will allow the officer to make a plain view seizure, (this is an exception to the warrantless search and seizure), in order to obtain and seize that contraband (an illegal substance) to determine whether or not his belief that it was illegal was correct. If they officer was correct and they can connect you to the contraband, that can result in an arrest. So plain view seizure or the plan view doctrine allows law enforcement, if they are lawfully in a position or place, to make an observation; if they can articulate at the time they look at the substance or the item that it is illegal or contraband, they can seize it even without a warrant and that may justify an arrest. Hopefully, that explains to you what the plain view doctrine is.

- Kevin Hayslett, P.A.

The criminal defense attorneys at Carlson, Meissner, Hart & Hayslett, P.A. are fighting for our clients rights in criminal defense cases in ClearwaterTampaBradentonSpring Hill, Pinellas, Pasco, New Port Richey, Manatee, Hillsborough and Hernando Counties in Florida.

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J. Kevin Hayslett

Kevin Hayslett, Esq.

J. Kevin Hayslettis an attorney practicing in the areas of Criminal Defense and DUI Defense from the Clearwater office and Hillsborough office. Kevin is an avid tennis player and is currently nationally rated in singles and doubles. You can follow Kevin onGoogle+, oron Radio IO on his show, "Kevin's Law". Kevin can also be heard on the Sirius Satellite Radio show during the "Ask the Lawyer" segment, which can be heard the first Thursday of every month.