PLAIN VIEW DOCTRINE
The Plain View Doctrine refers to the seizure of evidence that is open to view. There are three requirements for
the Plain View Doctrine. All requirements must be met. The three requirements for the Plain View Doctrine are-
An MP or other government official must be legitimately located when he or she views an item.
Prior justification for an intrusion to seize evidence must be present.
The item to be seized must lead to criminal prosecution.
Prior Justification to Search
Given the Fourth Amendment, a subject's right to privacy cannot be invaded. However, if an MP is in a
legitimate place when he or she spots an item, he or she can legally seize it. This seizure must be based on a
reasonable belief that the item was connected to criminal activity. Consider the following scenario: PVT Ayes, an
MP in your section, spots PVT Dumkauf speeding near a set of quarters. After stopping PVT Dumkauf, MP Ayes
spots a plastic bag full of white, powdery substance. Under the Plain View Doctrine, could MP Ayes seize the
white powder and hold it as evidence? Yes. Because MP Ayes was in a legitimate place, he could seize the
Later, on his way home, MP Ayes walks past the BEQ area.
Through an open window he spots several plastic bags full of a green leafy substance. PVT Ayes is off-duty and
does not have a search authorization. Under the Plain View Doctrine, could PVT Ayes enter the BEQ room and
seize the material as evidence? No, he may not enter the room without a search authorization. He was not in a
legitimate position when he made the observation. However, he may use his observation to get a search
authorization. After getting the search authorization, he may go back and conduct a legal search.
Seized Evidence Must Lead to Criminal Prosecution
Before seizing anything as evidence, the MP must believe it is connected with criminal activity. Consider the
MP Ayes has a search authorization. He is looking for missing M16 rifles and government typewriters. MP Ayes
enters PVT Dumkauf's quarters and searches the hall closet. In the closet, Ayes finds a bag of heroin. Later, in
the den, MP Ayes spots a color TV. He checks the serial number on the back. A few days later, MP Ayes learns
that the TV is stolen. Ayes comes to you for advice. Can MP Ayes seize the heroin? Can MP Ayes seize the TV
set? What would you advise MP Ayes to do? Under the Plain View Doctrine, Ayes could