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Plain View / Open Fields Case Study

Identify the elements of the plain view doctrine present in the scenario that could potentially justify the admission of evidence and address any issues raised by the doctrine. Then, determine if the open fields doctrine is applicable to the fact pattern. Support your conclusions with specific examples.

?Reference one court case to support your findings.

During a routine patrol of Mill Ave, officers Trent Nelson and Lance Mahoney witnessed a man running down the west side of the street swinging a purse in his right hand. A woman in her mid-thirties was running and yelling at this man to stop and give her back the purse. Both officers gave chase.
The pursuit led them through a nearby neighborhood, where fenced houses lined the streets.
During this pursuit, the suspect turned a corner and ran down a public alley used for trash collection between the houses. While running, the suspect dropped the purse, which tumbled to the ground and spilled most of its contents. The officers continued after him, but lost the suspect as he turned from the alley to another street.
While the officers walked back to the dropped purse, Officer Nelson heard screaming from within a brick-walled backyard. The officer walked over to the wall and was able to see into the yard, without standing on his toes, where he witnessed two thirteen year old boys in a fistfight. Their clothes were ripped, their eyes were swollen, and their faces were bloody with scratches. Officer Nelson ran to the unlocked gate and entered the backyard, where he broke up the fight and separated the boys.
Officer Nelson noticed several baggies resting on a patio table, just outside the patio door a few yards away. The officer called for the boys' parents, walking toward the patio's screen door.
The officer could see a white, powdery substance in the baggies as he moved past the table toward the door. A woman, dressed in a nightgown, exited the house and immediately began explaining the baggies on the table. Nelson arrested the woman for drug possession.
Once the backyard scene was secure, Officer Mahoney continued to the location of the dropped purse. As he retrieved the stolen purse, the officer recognized marijuana cigarettes among its spilled contents, including a checkbook, a compact, a lighter, and a tube of lipstick. Mahoney seized the items as evidence and arrested the purse's owner.

Solution Preview

The Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution provides that persons are free in their persons from unreasonable searches and seizures. A search is defined as a governmental intrusion into an area where a person has a reasonable and justifiable expectation of privacy. A seizure is defined as the exercise of governmental control over a person or thing What is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment depends on the circumstances. For example, certain searches and seizures are considered reasonable only if the government first obtained a warrant authorizing the action, while other searches and seizures are reasonable without a warrant.

There are at least six exceptions to the warrant requirement, i.e. where a warrantless search is reasonable and therefore valid under the Fourth Amendment. One of those is the plain view doctrine. Under the plain view doctrine, the police may make a warrantless seizure when they are (1) legitimately on the premises where they did the viewing; (2) discover evidence, fruits, or instrumentalities of crime, or contraband; (3) see such evidence in plain view; and (4) have probable cause to believe that the item is evidence, contraband, or an instrumentality of a crime. These requirements are set out in Arizona v. Hicks, 480 U.S. 321 (1987).

As applied to this scenario, the state will be able to successfully argue that the plain ...

Solution Summary

Identify the elements of the plain view doctrine present in the scenario