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Search & Seizure

Search and Seizure

What is Plain View Search and Seizure?

The plain view doctrine, sometimes called a 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.

For example, a police officer is walking by your car. You are in your car and not doing anything illegal—there is no basis for a traffic stop or for him to arrest you. But, through an open window, law enforcement looks in and sees on the back of your seat what appears to be a kilo of cocaine. If law enforcement can articulate to a judge that the way the item was packaged, what he observed, the markings on the package, the size of the package was consistent with his training and experience as cocaine, that would allow him to make a plain view seizure and confirm that it is or is not cocaine.

If it’s confirmed to be cocaine, and you’re in the distance for the officer to establish dominion or control, he can seize the cocaine and arrest you for possession of that substance.

Remember, law enforcement must lawfully be in the position they are in when they make the plain view seizure. That means they cannot be trespassing or in your home without a warrant when they make the plain view seizure.

Plain view seizure, or the plain view doctrine, allows law enforcement to make a lawful observation and confirm whether an item is illegal and seize it without a warrant—and may justify an arrest.

Do you have questions about your rights and the plain view doctrine? Contact Carlson Meissner for a Free Consultation regarding your case.