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A police officer may lawfully seize an item seen in plain view from a lawful position or during a legal search if the officer has probable cause to believe that the item is evidence of a crime. The requirements of the plain view doctrine are: 1) The police are legitimately on the premises; 2) They inadvertently discover fruits or instrumentalities of crime and have probable cause to believe so; and 3) They observe such evidence in plain view. The plain view exception does not allow an officer to seize all items on private property because they are in plain view. There must be some prior justification for the officer's presence on the property. If the officer is not justified in coming on the property at that time he must get a warrant. He cannot rely on the plain view exception. In order to invoke the plain view exception, an officer need not have a certainty or knowledge that the evidence seized is incriminating. A reasonable belief is sufficient.


The 'plain-view' doctrine is often considered an exception to the general rule that warrantless searches are presumptively unreasonable, but this characterization overlooks the important difference between searches and seizures. 'It ...

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