The search and seizure are methods used by law enforcement offers in their work. They help them to question, obtain evidence against suspects and to arrest them. The procedure for search and seizure are governed by the fourth Amendment and other rules and statutes which put more clarity on the areas not covered by the Fourth Amendment. The law also permits the law enforcement officers to carry out unwarranted searches and seizures in certain circumstances. This paper is going to focus on circumstances where an warranted search and seizure can be disguised as legal more so considering the doctrine of plain view and search with consent. The paper concludes that there is a gray area in the law that can be used by the authorities to justify unwarranted searches and seizures.
The plain view doctrine extends the powers of the law enforcement officers carrying out a warranted search to seize items that are not covered under the warrant they are operating under if the said items are in the officers’ plain view and they are likely contain to incriminating evidence. For such items the law enforcement officers do not need prior authority to conduct a search or a seizure. The Court in Horton v. California set out the conditions under which a plain view doctrine should uphold: 1) the item must be in plain view of the officer; 2) the officer must be in the place where the evidence is discovered lawfully; 3) the incriminating nature of the evidence must be immediately apparent (Ross, 2006). The doctrine of plain view has been expanded over the years to cover more territory.
This is so because what is in plain view is relative. In United States v. Comprehensive Drug Testing, 2004, the U.S government obtained search warrants against 10 Baseball players suspected of using illegal steroids. Using this warrant, the government agents seized the records of not only the ten listed players but of hundreds of others among the baseball players and athletes. The government justified its position by invoking the plain view doctrine leading the judge to ask what became of the Fourth Amendment (Ross, 2006).
Consent searches are made by the law enforcement officers with the consent of a person whose property they intend to search. In order for a search to qualify as a consent search, the person whose property is being searched must voluntary waiver his Fourth Amendment rights. If the said search leads to incriminating evidence, the prosecution is duty bound to prove that the consent search was purely voluntary and the person who granted the consent was not pressurized or coerced.
The person doing the search does not have to identify himself as in Hoffa v. United States. A property can be searched with the consent of one person in a case where two people are living together. This was clearly manifested in State v. Brunetti where the defendant father in a murder case signed the consent form while the mother refused to sign (Wright & Leipold, (2010). The police conducted a search based on the consent of the father and the evidence gained was admitted in the court trial. Plain view and consent are however grey areas in the law. How plain an object is can be the subject of debate while one cannot measure with certainty if consent was given freely or through coercion.