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New Ruling on Search and Seizure of Items "In Plain View"

Posted on Aug 19, 2010
Police officers can, in certain circumstances, seize evidence that is in "plain view."   This is an exception to the requirement that the police prove probable cause to a judge in advance and obtain a search warrant.  However, this exception is not allowed in every case, and must meet certain parameters  On August 4, the New Jersey Supreme Court discussed those very circumstances in the case of State v. Mann.  The justices set forth a three-part test:

1. The police officer must be lawfully in the viewing area.

2. The officer has to discover the evidence ‘inadvertently,' meaning that he did not know in advance where evidence was located nor intend beforehand to seize it.

3. The officer has probable cause to associate the item with a violation of the law.

Seizures of plain view evidence that do not mee this test are subject to suppression.  What is significant about this ruling is that recent decisions by the US Supreme Court have questioned whether the "inadvertent" requirement is necessary under the Constitution. With this ruling the court makes it clear that the three-step analysis is still required under New Jersey law.
Steven J. Richardson
Bankruptcy, Collections, Student Loan, DUI and Traffic Court attorney in Woodbury, NJ.