Constitutional Law: Plain View

Danny and Austin should move to have the evidence of the marijuana suppressed at the trial. The plain view doctrine provides an exception to the requirement of a warrant where a law officer identifies and immediately recognizes as contraband, any item while lawfully being present in an area protected by the Fourth amendment. The doctrine was established in Horton v. California, where the court held that apart from the officer being lawfully present at the place the evidence if found, the items should be in plain sight and the incriminating nature of such items should be clearly apparent without further intrusion.

Although, in Danny and Austin’s case, the evidence of marijuana was both in plain sight and the incriminating nature of the evidence was apparent without any further intrusion, Sheriff Joe was not lawfully present at the garage where the evidence was found. The Fourth amendment provides for the protection of privacy and sets out that an individual has an expectation of privacy. A person has a reasonable expectation of privacy in his private residence, including his garage and this concept is essential in distinguishing between a reasonable search and an unreasonable search. A search violates the Fourth amendment when a law officer infringes an individual’s reasonable expectation of privacy. Justice Harlan in Katz v United States articulated a two part test to determine whether a search is subject to the restrictions of the Fourth amendment. The first part of the test is that the search must contravene the individuals expectation of privacy. Here, the individual must demonstrate that the evidence was kept in a manner to ensure its privacy. This test is connected to the concept of plain view and where the individual did not take any effort to conceal the item from an observer then there is no legitimate expectation. The second part of the test requires that the expectation of privacy to be reasonable. Reasonable in this regard implies that the evidence in question was kept in a private place.

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The marijuana evidence in Danny and Austin’s’ trial was kept in a private place and it was discovered following the intrusion of the sheriff into private property. Therefore, they are likely to prevail in suppressing the evidence because the sheriff violated the individual’s Fourth amendment. Although a warrant was later obtained for the seizure of the marijuana evidence, its discovery was in violation of the Fourth amendment, and as such, should be excluded under the doctrine of the fruit of the poisonous tree (Smith 26).

Work cited

Horton v. California, 496 U.S. 128. No. 88-7164. U.S. Supreme Court 1990. Online (14 Feb 2014).

Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. 347. No. 35. U.S. Supreme Court 1967. Online (14 Feb 2014).

Smith, Rich. Fourth Amendment: The Right to Privacy. ABDO, 2010. Print.

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