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Connecticut criminal defense attorney explains plain view searches

Requirements for a valid plain view search

The United States Constitution provides protection from unreasonable searches and seizures by the police. Generally, if the police have a suspicion that a parked car or home may have contraband inside, the police must first obtain a search warrant from a magistrate judge before they can perform a search. However, under the plain view doctrine, the police are able to seize an object without a warrant if three criteria are met.

First, by merely glancing at the object, the police must be able to see that the object is incriminating and have probable cause to believe that it is some form of contraband. Second, the police must be lawfully in the position to view the object. For example, if the police conduct a lawful traffic stop and can see contraband through the window when talking with the driver, the police are in a lawful position to view the object. Finally, the police must also have lawful access to the object. For example, the police cannot break into a car to recover a gun noticeable through a window.

Challenging a plain view search

If the police seize an object based upon the plain view doctrine, a knowledgeable Hartford criminal attorney may be able to challenge the search and exclude the object from introduction at trial. There are two ways that a criminal defense lawyer can contest the legality of a plain view search: (1) by arguing the incriminating nature of the item is not apparent and (2) by challenging whether the police had a legal right to be in a position to view the object.

The incriminating nature of the object must be readily apparent simply by glancing at the object. The plain view doctrine does not allow the police to inspect an object prior to determining whether the object is incriminating in nature. In addition, the police cannot perform tests on the object to determine if it is an incriminating object. If the police do more than glance at the object to determine its characteristics, your Hartford criminal attorney may be able to exclude the object from being introduced as evidence at trial.

In addition, the police must be in a lawful position to view the object. For example, if the police were conducting a search of the defendant’s home under a properly executed search warrant, the search warrant will contain parameters regarding what the police may search and what they are specifically looking for. If the police exceed the limitations of the search warrant and find an incriminating object in plain view, the court may exclude the object as evidence because the plain view doctrine may not save the search.

Contact experienced Connecticut criminal lawyer J. Patten Brown, III for help

If you have been arrested and charged with a crime, I am available to evaluate your case. To arrange for a free initial consultation, complete the Case Submission form on this page or call me at the number above.

J. Patten Brown, III, Esq.
Connecticut Defense Attorney

924 Farmington Avenue, Floor 3
West Hartford, CT 06107

110 Wall Street, 11th Floor
New York, New York 10005.

Areas Served: I handle state and federal criminal cases throughout Connecticut including these counties and cities. Counties: Hartford, Tolland, New Haven, Fairfield, Middlesex, Litchfield. Communities: New Britain, Hartford, Bridgeport, Middletown, Litchfield, Rockville, New Haven, Stamford.

I also represent criminal defendants in state courts in New York, Louisiana and Tennessee and in federal district and appellate courts around the country.