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Criminal Procedure - Outline Part 11

By Collin B. Hardee

Download the PDF version of this outline

<< Part 10 | Part 12 >>

California v. Acevedo (1991) → if the police have probable cause to believe that a container contains contraband, they may wait until the container is in the car, stop the car, and seize and open the container, all without a warrant

  • Holding – the police’s right to conduct a warrantless search of containers in a car should apply not only where their probable cause relates to the car as a whole (the situation in Ross), but also where their probable cause extends only to the container itself. The majority believed that the intrusion in this situation was no more severe than in the Ross “probable cause as to the whole car” situation
Containers Belonging to Passengers
  • Does PC to search a car entitle the police to open containers they have reason to know belong to an occupant whom they lack probable cause to arrest?
  • Wyoming v. Houghton (1999) → “police officers w/ PC to search a car may inspect ANY passengers’ belongs found in the car that are capable of concealing the object of the search”
    • “Passengers, no less than drivers, possess a reduced expectation of privacy w/ regard to the property that they transport in cars”
    • “The degree of intrusiveness upon personal privacy and indeed even personal dignity” of a property search is less than the intrusiveness of a search of one’s person.
    • The government’s legitimate interest in effective law enforcement justified a search of all car containers that might hold drugs, and not simply those containers apparently belong to the driver.
Plain View (and Touch) Doctrines

Horton v. California (1990) → For the plain view doctrine to be applied so that a warrantless seizure of evidence is allowable, three (3) requirements must be met:

  1. Officers must not have violated the 4th Amendment in arriving at the place from which the items were plainly viewed;
    • Can’t trespass to get into a position to see the viewable item
  2. The incriminating nature of the items must be immediately apparent; and
    • Must be able to be viewed by the naked eye; not microscopic evidence
    • The police must, at the moment they first see the item in plain view, have probable cause to believe that the object is incriminating
  3. The officers must have a lawful right of access to the object itself
    • Seizure of Unnamed Items – as police are conducting a search, they may sometimes come across items which they would like to seize, but which are not listed in the warrant. Courts usually allow such seizures as long as the search was conducted in the proper area and the unnamed item was in “plain view” at some point during the lawful search
      • No Requirement of Inadvertence (Unintentional) – it is not required, for application of the plain view doctrine, that the police’s discovery of an item in plain view by “inadvertent”, i.e., if the police know that they are likely to find items 1, 2, and 3 in a search of D’s premises, and they get a warrant listing items 1 and 2, they may seize item 3 if they encounter it in plain view while executing the search warrant, even though their spotting of 3 was no “unintentional”
      • Facts of Horton police had warrant to find fruits of robbery (i.e., 3 rings) but found weapons (as they thought they would) as well – court allowed the seizure and subsequent intro into evidence of the weapons under the plain view doctrine, even though the police discovery of the weapons was not unintentional and could easily have been covered by thee warrant
      • Application – police may list one or a few items, and then pick up anything else they happen across while searching for the listed items

Arizona v. Hicks (1987) → For a warrantless search or seizure to be reasonable under the Fourth Amendment, the plain view doctrine can only be invoked to search or seize evidence if the police have probable cause of the evidence’s incriminating character.

  • The plain view doctrine demands that probable cause exist before an officer may search or seize a piece of evidence.
  • The Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures are both due equal protections and must be treated the same under the plain view doctrine.
    • As such, just as the plain view doctrine allows police to seize evidence without a warrant when they observe incriminating evidence in plain view, it permits officers to search items by moving them for closer inspection.
  • However, probable cause is necessary to invoke the plain view doctrine for a warrantless search.
    • Under the Fourth Amendment, warrantless searches and seizures are presumptively unreasonable and there is no reason why an exception to the warrant requirement should require a lesser standard of cause than that needed to obtain an actual warrant.
  • In this case, the officer’s inspection of the stereo equipment constituted a Fourth Amendment search because his actions allowed him to observe and record information that was not already exposed and in plain view.
    • The search of the stereo equipment was unrelated to the lawful purpose for which the officer was in Hick’s apartment.
    • Also, the search of the equipment does not fall under the plain view doctrine because the officer lacked probable cause that the equipment was stolen.
  • Therefore, the search is unconstitutional.
  • Holding: the plain view doctrine does not apply, b/c at the moment the officer picked up the stereo, he did not have probable cause for the search he performed by moving it, merely “reasonable suspicion. (By the time he seized it, he did have probable case, but he got that probable case – by learning that the serial number had been reported stolen – via the illegal search)
Plain-Touch Doctrine
  • Minnesota v. Dickerson (1993) – “The plain-view doctrine has an obvious application by analogy to cases in which an officer discovers contraband through the sense of touch during an otherwise lawful search.
    • If a police officer lawfully pats down a suspect’s outer clothing for weapons and feels an object whose contour or mass makes it identity immediately apparent, there has been no invasion of the suspect’s privacy beyond that already authorized by the officer’s search for weapons;
    • if the object is contraband, its warrantless seizure would be justified by the same practical considerations that inhere in the plain view context.”

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