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The Plain View Doctrine Explained

When the police seize evidence, they usually need to present a warrant before they are allowed to either begin the search or take that evidence for the purposes a criminal trial. There are a few exceptions to this Constitutional rule, including what is known as the plain view doctrine. According to the plain view doctrine, possible evidence that is in immediate sight of the police officer may be taken for evidence in a criminal case. However, if there are any obstructions between the officer’s line of sight and the object, it may no longer qualify under the plain view doctrine.

How Does the Plain View Doctrine Work?

A police officer is allowed to bypass the normal requirement of presenting a warrant before seizing property for evidence if that property is immediately in their line of sight. This means property behind doors or inside compartments, unless glass or see-through, will almost never be covered under the plain view doctrine. This doctrine applies to the following situations:

  • When a person is displaying the property in public
  • When a person is growing or storing the property in an open area
  • When the property is visible from outside, such as being seen through a window

If property can be clearly seen in public by a police officer without the need for a full search, it usually may be seized as evidence without a warrant. However, if property is wrongfully taken and the plain view doctrine doesn’t apply, that evidence may be discounted from the defendant’s criminal trial as illegally obtained.

Contact Us

If you’ve been arrested on criminal charges, we may be able to help you defend yourself from these allegations or fight for more favorable sentencing through a plea bargain. To learn more about your defense options if they police have illegally seized property from you and are using it in your prosecution, contact an attorney from the Law Office of Daniel Jensen, P.C., today at (408) 493-0082.

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