Plain View Doctrine
In the context of searches and seizures, the principle that provides that objects perceptible by an officer who is rightfully in a position to observe them can be seized without a SEARCH WARRANT and are admissible as evidence.
The U.S. Supreme Court has developed and refined the plain view doctrine over time. In Coolidge v. New Hampshire, 403 U.S. 443, 91 S.Ct. 2022, 29 L.Ed.2d 564 (1971), the Court ruled that the seizure of two automobiles in plain view during the arrest of the defendant, along with later findings of gunpowder, did not violate the defendant's FOURTH AMENDMENT rights (protection against unreasonable SEARCH AND SEIZURE).
The Court also has drawn distinctions between searches and seizures in applying the plain view doctrine. In Arizona v. Hicks, 480 U.S. 321, 197 S.Ct. 1149, 94 L.Ed.2d 347 (1987), the Court held that no seizure occurred when a police officer called to the scene of a shooting incident recorded serial numbers of stereo equipment he observed in plain view, and which he believed had been stolen. Nevertheless, the officer's actions in moving the equipment to find the serial numbers constituted a search; the officer had a "reasonable suspicion" that the equipment had been stolen, but it was not supported by PROBABLE CAUSE.