Courts and Criminal Procedures
Landmark Case: Horton v. California, 496 U.S. 128, (1990).
According to the United States Constitution, under the fourth amendment, a person has a right to privacy of his/her own body, papers, effects and their home against unreasonable searches and seizures. To prevent from unreasonable searches or seizures, officials must obtain a warrant specifying what is to be examined and or collected in order for those items to be allowed in court. However, over time, exceptions have come about allowing officers to search and or seize possible evidence without a warrant, one of those exceptions being the plain view doctrine. The plain view doctrine allows officers to collect any evidence of and or involved in a crime without a warrant if the evidence itself is in plain sight (uscourts.gov). Of course, an officer can’t just randomly search one’s bag and pull out, let’s say illegal drugs, and say that now that it’s out of the bag, it is in plain sight; or an officer can’t walk in to a person’s home (without a warrant and or consent) and see, let’s say illegal weapons, and say that it is in plain sight because those individuals still have their right to privacy. The plain view doctrine also comes with a set of guidelines officials must follow for their claim of plain view to be relevant in court. Those guidelines are as follows: an officer is at a lawful vantage point, meaning they have a legal right to be where they are, illegality of the item is immediately apparent, meaning that the officer has to immediately become aware that what is in plain sight is in fact illegal, and finally, officials must have lawful access to the so called evidence, meaning they have a warrant and or consent to be where they are (Fradella, Neubauer, 292). In the landmark case of Horton v. California and a few others being discussed, this will conclude the proper and/or improper handling of cases regarding the plain view doctrine. A gentleman by the name of Terry Brice Horton, or according to the case document, the petitioner, was arrested in his own home after Sergeant LaRault obtained a warrant to search for items that were stolen in a previous robbery. Originally, LaRault requested authorization to search for items stolen during the robbery as well as the weapons used; however, the warrant only gave LaRault authorization to search for the money and three rings that were taken from the victim of the robbery. Upon entering the home, the sergeant was unsuccessful in finding the stolen property but in plain view of the sergeant, the weapons that were used in the initial crime and those weapons were seized. While in trial court, the weapons found in the home were not suppressed, and ultimately were the deciding factor by the trial jury to find the man guilty. When the petitioner argued his case, the California Court of Appeals rejected his argument because even though the sergeant didn’t have a warrant for those items found, while in search for the items on the warrant, he unintentionally found the weapons and thus allowing the plain view doctrine to come in to play (Horton v. California). In this case, the court’s ruling was appropriate in terms of following Horton’s rights because they were not violated. Factoring in the guidelines as to what allows the plain view doctrine to be acceptable; all of the sections were met accordingly. The sergeant had the right to be in Horton’s home after receiving a valid search warrant from a neutral and unbiased magistrate because based on the victim of the robbery’s testimony; it gave LaRault enough probable cause to apply for the warrant asking specifically to search for items pertaining to the crime. Where, LaRault went through the proper application for a search warrant, this allows factors number one and two of the plain view doctrine to be completed because this allows him to be at a “lawful vantage point” and have “lawful access to the so