Search and Seizure: Plain View


Under the plain view doctrine, an officer may seize an object and introduce it as evidence if the officer was lawfully in the place where the object was located and the incriminating nature of the object was immediately apparent.[1]

Case Law

S.C. Supreme Court

“[T]he two elements necessary for the plain view doctrine are: (1) the initial intrusion which afforded the authorities the plain view was lawful and (2) the incriminating nature of the evidence was immediately apparent to the seizing authorities.” State v. Wright, 391 S.C. 436, 446, 706 S.E.2d 324, 328–29 (2011). As the United States Supreme Court articulated in Minnesota v. Dickerson,

The rationale of the plain-view doctrine is that if contraband is left in open view and is observed by a police officer from a lawful vantage point, there has been no invasion of a legitimate expectation of privacy and thus no “search” within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment—or at least no search independent of the initial intrusion that gave the officers their vantage point. State v. Cardwell, 425 S.C. 595, 600–01, 824 S.E.2d 451, 454 (2019)


“We take this opportunity to join with the majority of states and adopt Horton, thereby discarding the inadvertence requirement of the plain view doctrine. Hence, the two elements needed to satisfy the plain view exception are: (1) the initial intrusion which afforded the authorities the plain view was lawful and (2) the incriminating nature of the evidence was immediately apparent to the seizing authorities.” State v. Wright, 391 S.C. 436, 443 (2011).

[1] State v. Wright, 391 S.C. 436 (2011).