Q: Is there anything that clearly defines "plain sight", either federally or in Minnesota law?
I believe that the case against me is questionable as they used "plain sight" as reason to pull me over after they searched my vehicle in my absence. Unlit parking lot, tinted windows, an hour and a half after sunset. But for the life of me I cant find a clear definition of what constitutes plain sight.
A: The term that you are looking for is "plain view." "Plain view" occurs when law enforcement is in a law enforcement is in a location that they are allowed to be in and they see something that is contraband without having to manipulate the object. So for example, if an illegal object was sitting in your vehicle and law enforcement observed that contraband from outside the vehicle, the item would be in "plain view."
The plain view exception is defined by judges in case opinions. Here is an excerpt from State v. Chute, 908 NW 2d 578, a Minnesota Supreme Court, 2018 case, from footnote 2:
"Although the parties discuss the plain-view exception, it is not relevant to our analysis because it is an exception to the warrant requirement for a seizure, not for a search, of property. The plain-view doctrine enables law enforcement to make a warrantless seizure if officers are "lawfully in a position from which they view [the] object, if [the object's] incriminating character is immediately apparent, and if the officers have a lawful right of access to the object." Minnesota v. Dickerson, 508 U.S. 366, 375, 113 S.Ct. 2130, 124 L.Ed.2d 334 (1993). As the Court stated in Horton v. California, "[i]f `plain view' justifies an exception from an otherwise applicable warrant requirement,... it must be an exception that is addressed to the concerns that are implicated by seizures rather than by searches." 496 U.S. 128, 134, 110 S.Ct. 2301, 110 L.Ed.2d 112 (1990)."
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