Plain View Doctrine Attorneys

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Plain View Doctrine Attorneys

A search warrant is an order signed by a judge authorizing law enforcement to search a specific place for objects and materials pertaining to a crime. In certain situations, law enforcement can search property without a search warrant as long as the items are in plain view.

What Is the Plain View Doctrine?

The plain view doctrine allows law enforcement to search and seize property without obtaining a search warrant based on evidence of criminal activity because that property is out in “plain view.”

Is the Plain View Doctrine the Same as Probable Cause?

No. Probable cause refers to law enforcement needing a legal reason to conduct a search, seize property, or arrest someone. The legal reason is based on a reasonable belief that a crime has occurred or is occurring.

With the plain view doctrine, an object can be seized without a warrant as long as the object is in plain view of the police officer. For example, an officer can seize a firearm that they see on the passenger seat of a car that they stopped for a minor traffic violation.

What Are the Elements of Plain View?

For a police officer to search and/ or seize property in plain view, the officer must:

Is Plain View the Same as Plain Smell?

It depends on the jurisdiction because jurisdictions are split on “plain smell.” In some jurisdiction, courts have held law enforcement may search without a warrant if they smell evidence of a crime. Other courts have decided that smelling an odor does not establish enough probable cause to permit an officer to search legally, and any search conducted on smell alone is an illegal search.

Should I Contact an Attorney about Plain View Doctrine?

Yes because the plain view doctrine can be very complicated. You will need to talk to a criminal attorney if your criminal charge is based on evidence seized under the plain view doctrine.

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Last Modified: 06-22-2015 04:27 PM PDT

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