The plain view rule is of one reason, adopted by the courts to take into account the realities of
police work and the difficult situations which confront our law enforcement officers. It is reasonable to
allow the police officer to seize evidence of a crime or contraband which is in plain view. Otherwise, the
officer would have to stop and go get another warrant. If he were searching a locker for drugs and
discovered something reasonably believed to be a murder weapon, this would mean he would have to
go get a second warrant or authorization in order to seize something which he had already discovered
while searching under the first, lawful warrant/authorization. Such a requirement would simply be
6. Search Under Exigent Circumstances.
a. General. This is another example of how the courts have tried to accommodate the
interests of effective law enforcement. Remember, the Fourth Amendment prefers the use of a search
warrant/authorization. If it is possible to obtain one, do so. This is always the safest way to go. In a
close case, the fact that you did so may tip the scales in favor of the government. Sometimes,
however, it is not possible to stop and obtain a search authorization or warrant. Sometimes, doing so
would simply be unreasonable. As we have seen over and over, the rules governing the Fourth
Amendment represent an attempt to balance the rights of the individual against the rights of society.
We want our police officers to use the search authorization/warrant process when it is feasible for them
to do so. If this would be unreasonable under the facts confronting the police, then such may not be
required. Again, always remember that what the Fourth Amendment prohibits is an UNREASONABLE
search and seizure.
The conduct of the police officer must be judged in the context in which he acted. Depending in the
situation which he faced, certain emergency conditions may make the obtaining of a search
authorization simply unreasonable. Under MRE 315(g)(1), a search authorization is not required if
there is a "reasonable belief that the delay necessary to obtain a search warrant or search authorization
would result in the removal, destruction, or concealment of the property or evidence sought." This is a
probable cause search. For the exception to apply, you need BOTH the probable cause as well as the
exigent circumstance(s). One without the other is not sufficient. An easy way to think of this is simply
PC + EC = AA. In other words, probable cause (PC) plus exigent circumstances (EC) equals authority
to act (AA).
b. Hot pursuit. "The Fourth Amendment does not require police officers to delay in the course
of an investigation if to do so would gravely endanger their lives or the lives of others." The "exigencies
of the situation" may demand immediate action. Maryland Penitentiary v. Hayden, 18 L.Ed.2d 782
(1967). In one case, the police arrived at a private residence.