The length of the detention must be reasonable under the circumstances. The detention "must be
temporary and last no longer than is necessary to effectuate the purpose of the stop." The issue is
"whether the police diligently pursued a means of investigation that was likely to confirm or dispel their
suspicions quickly." The police must act with diligence and without unnecessary delay. When they act
in such a manner, a 20-minute detention was upheld as reasonable. U.S. v. Sharpe, 84 L.Ed.2d 605
(1985). Under different facts, however, a 90-minute detention was held to be unreasonable. U.S. v.
Place, 77 L.Ed.2d 110 (1983). If the detention is too long, it will be regarded as having turned into an
actual apprehension. Since there is no probable cause, this "apprehension" is not lawful. Florida v.
Royer, 75 L.Ed.2d 299 (1983).
There is no specific point at which the investigative stop becomes an apprehension;
reasonableness will depend on the facts of a specific case. It is, as stated, of limited duration, but more
is involved than simply counting minutes. It is not, then, how many minutes have passed, but what the
police have been doing during those minutes. If they acted unreasonably, even a short period of
detention could be unlawful. If they act reasonably, on the other hand, courts will justify much longer
periods of detention. The Supreme Court has "rejected hard-and-fast rules...common sense and
ordinary human experience must govern over rigid criteria." U.S. v. Hernandez, 37 Cr.L. 3175 (1985).
5. Plain View.
a. General. MRE 316(d)(4) states that property may be seized for use in evidence if it qualifies
under the following standard: "The person while in the course of otherwise lawful activity observed in a
reasonable fashion property or evidence that the person has probable cause to seize." For this rule to
apply, two elements must be present: (1) the person making the seizure must be legitimately situated in
the place from which the observation is made; and (2) there must be probable cause to seize the
property; i.e., a reasonable belief that it is evidence of a crime or contraband.
b. Application of the rule. Remember, both elements must be present. The rule "authorizes
seizure of illegal or evidentiary items visible to a police officer whose access to the object has some
prior Fourth Amendment justification and who has probable cause to suspect that the item is connected
with criminal activity." U.S. v. Stoecker, 17 MJ 158 (CMA, 1958). In one case, for example, the police
apprehended a person who was then allowed to enter his college dormitory room in order to obtain an
identification card. The Supreme Court held that the police officer had the right to follow the suspect
into his room. Since the entry was lawful, the police officer could observe marijuana which he saw on a
desk in the room. This was found to be a "classic case" of plain view. As the Court explained, "when a
police officer, for unrelated but entirely legitimate reasons, obtains lawful access to an individual's area
of privacy, the Fourth Amendment does not prohibit seizure of evidence of criminal conduct found in
these circumstances." Washington v. Chrisman, 70 L.Ed.2d 778 (1982).