The Corner

Cajun Searches

I’m going completely on readers here, but I’m told some version of this by a few readers:

Re the search case, although I haven’t read this or the 1994 opinion and

I don’t handle criminal matters, based on the facts in the article, it

doesn’t sound like a huge expansion. There has always been a “plain

view” exception to the need for a warrant. Basically, if police are

there for a lawful purpose, any contraband that is in plain view can be

used against the defendant.

This opinion simply allows use of contraband found while the police are

checking areas a potentially dangerous subject may be hiding. The

police still have to be there lawfully and their actions have to be for

a valid, articulable reason, that is unrelated to searching for illicit

material. I’m sure that if the police weren’t given permission to enter

the room or they checked the defendants sock drawer and found a gun,

that evidence would be tossed, because they weren’t there lawfully and

checking a sock drawer in no way adds to law enforcement safety.

In short, the court recognized that conduct such as looking in a closet

or under a bed, is motivated solely by genuine concerns for the safety

of law enforcement and innocent civilians. Finding contraband while

looking in a closet for this valid reason, (which, remember, is

completely unrelated to a search aimed at finding contraband), is, in

essence, the same as seeing contraband upon entering the room.

These requirements and limitations amount to a probable cause or

reasonable belief standard. For this exception to apply, the subject

has to be potentially dangerous and the contraband is found while law

enforcement is looking in the limited places where the subject could be

hiding. There would be no argument if they looked in the closet because

of a noise or if they heard cries for help. So, why should there be any

less of a reasonable belief the subject is in the closet simply because

he is quiet?

The reason we have the Exclusionary Rule is to deter unconstitutional

conduct by law enforcement. If a police officer’s conduct is solely

motivated by an immediate and present concern for safety, then it cannot

be said their actions are unconstitutional.


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