Brief Fact Summary. When investigating a shooting in an apartment, a police officer moved certain stereo equipment, which was very fancy and looked out of place, and learned that it had been taken during an armed robbery.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. Only when a police officer had probable cause, not reasonable suspicion, could they invoke the “plain view” doctrine.
Facts. A bullet was fired through the floor of the Respondent’s apartment, hitting an individual in the apartment below. In response to the shooting, the police entered the Respondent’s apartment and found three weapons and a stoking-cap mask. One of the officer’s who entered the Respondent’s apartment noticed expensive stereo equipment that looked out of place and he moved the components to check their serial numbers. After phoning the police station, the officer learned that the equipment was taken during a recent armed robbery. The officer seized some of the equipment immediately and obtained a warrant to seize the rest of it, which was determined to have been taken during the same armed robbery.
The Respondent was indicted for robbery. The state trial court granted the Respondent’s motion to suppress, the Arizona Court of Appeals affirmed, the Arizona Supreme Court refused to review, and the state filed a petition to the Supreme Court.
Issue. Did the officer’s conduct constitute a seizure?
Did the officer’s conduct constitute a search?
Can the “plain view” doctrine be invoked when the police have less than probable cause to believe that the item in question is evidence of a crime or is contraband? Was the search reasonable under the Fourth Amendment?