The Plain View Exception To The Requirement For A Warrant

Evidence Observed by Police in Plain View?

One of the more frequently utilized exceptions for a search of property without a warrant is that a drug, weapon or other piece of incriminating evidence was in plain view thereby allowing a warrantless search. While plain view is definitely something that arises in the field all the time, the lawyers at our firm, the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall also find that this doctrine is subject to abuse by law enforcement. Indeed, over our nearly 100 years of collective defense experience, including years of several attorneys as prosecutors, we have seen the plain view exception utilized in violation of law may times. If you were subjected to a House Search or Car Search and the police are relying on plain view as the basis for not obtaining a warrant, an attorney on our team will be happy to analyze your case at an initial consultation. There is no charge for the consultation and, if you decide to hire us, you will know that your lawyer basis the knowledge and experience in Search & Seizure Law to insure that obtain the fair treatment you deserve under the law. We are available 24/7 at 1-877-450-8301, and we hope you find the information that follows of assistance with your Monmouth County, Ocean County, Middlesex County, Union County, Passaic County, Morris County, Hudson County, Essex County or Bergen County case.

Search Without A Warrant Following “Plain View” Observations

Both the US and New Jersey Constitution grants individuals the right to remain free from unreasonable search or seizure. This protection extends to any property to which an individual possesses an expectation of privacy (e.g. their home). The law presumes that when an individual leaves something in “plain view” of third parties, he or she does not expect that it remain private and protected against a search. This rule is commonly referred to as the plain view doctrine and represents an exception to the Warrant Requirement.

The following conditions must be met for plain view to apply:

  1. Police must have possessed a right to be in the location where the evidence was observed; and
  2. It must be “immediately apparent” to police that the item in plain view is contraband or evidence of a crime.

The most common scenario where plain view arises is a routine traffic stop where police purportedly notice a weapon, drugs or other evidence in the car. Another example involving plain view is when police attempt to serve an arrest warrant and allegedly discover incriminating evidence. In both of these examples, the police were legitimately in the area where the evidence was observed and it was apparent that the evidence was criminal evidence. A seizure of the item(s) would be perfectly permissible under the plain view warrant exception. It should be noted, nonetheless, that police cannot enter property without a warrant based simply on what they observe unless entry is with probable cause to arrest based on what the officer saw in plain view on the property.

If you would like to further discuss the facts of your case and the applicability of plain view to allow a search without a warrant, a lawyer at our firm is available immediately. Initial consultations with our attorneys are always free of charge so there is no reason to hesitate in getting the answers you need to plan your defense. An attorney is available now at 1-877-450-8301, so give us a call.