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Horton v. California


An officer determined that there was probable cause to search the defendant’s home for evidence of a robbery. His affidavit for a search warrant referred to the weapons used in the crime as well as the proceeds, but the search warrant issued by the Magistrate only authorized a search for the proceeds.

During the execution of the warrant, the officer did not find the stolen property. However, he discovered the weapons in the course of searching for the proceeds and seized them. The officer testified that while he was searching for the proceeds, he was also interested in finding other evidence connecting the defendant to the robbery. The seized evidence was not discovered “inadvertently.”


Whether the warrantless seizure of evidence of crime in plain view must be inadvertent?


No. The plain view doctrine does not require evidence of crime to be discovered inadvertently.


An essential and initial predicate to a valid plain view seizure is that the officer did not violate the Fourth Amendment in arriving at the place from which the evidence was plainly viewed. The officer must be lawfully present in the area in which the item is seized. Second, the incriminating character of the object must also be “immediately apparent.”

The items seized from the defendant’s home were discovered during a lawful search authorized by a valid warrant. The officer was legally present. When the items were discovered, it was immediately apparent to the officer that they constituted incriminating evidence. In this case, the seizure was reasonable.


496 U.S. 128, 110 S. Ct. 2301 (1990)

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