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  1. Harris v. United States (1968), the plain view doctrine



    According to Harris v. United States (1968), the plain view doctrine permits law enforcement officers to observe, search and/ or seize evidence without a warrant or any other justification. list the three prescribed requirements ( according to the US Supreme Court)developed through court decisions over the years.   


Subject Law and governance Pages 2 Style APA


Requirements of The Plain View Doctrine

The plain view doctrine is one of the exemptions to the Fourteenth Amendment to the US Constitution that allows law enforcement offices to conduct searches and seizures without a warrant. Specifically, the doctrine makes it legal for officers to seize evidence related to contraband that the officers find in plain view, albeit in a lawful observation. The doctrine was established in Harris v. United States [1968] where the Court held that law enforcement officers can observe, search, and even seize evidence without a warrant or any other justification. However, such a position was refined several years later in Coolidge v. New Hampshire [1971] where three requirements were set out for the doctrine of plain view to apply.  One of those is that the legal presence of the officer to view the evidence/contraband. The second requirement is that officer seizing the evidence must have probable cause and a firm belief that the item being seized is either contraband of crime evidence. The third aspect is that the observation made by the officer must have been made inadvertent as opposed to being planned or anticipated before the sighting. However, in the most recent case of Horton v. California [1990], the Court refined the requirement of inadvertency. Notably, there were difficulties in determining and defining an inadvertent discovery. Additionally, the Supreme Court, in this case, improved on the other requirement by stating that the officer conducting the search and seizure must have a lawful right of access so that he/she can seize the objects. Moreover, the search and seizure should only relate to contraband or evidence and not to any further search and investigation.


Coolidge v. New Hampshire [1971] 403 U.S. 443.

Harris v. United States [1968] 390 U.S. 234.

Horton v. California [1990] 496 U.S. 128.




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