Plain View Exception

If the officer, during a lawful traffic stop, observes contraband in the vehicle, she may search it without a warrant. Contraband includes drugs of all kinds and other illegal substances.

What are some examples of the plain view exception?

Some examples are:

  • drugs
  • pill bottles and/or pills
  • a plastic bag or baggie with a suspicious substance
  • beer cans
  • liquor bottles
  • weapons
  • drug paraphernalia

Example: The presence of a brown paper bag with the logo from a store known to sell drug paraphernalia on the passenger seat is a plain view exception.

Example: An obvious odor is the equivalent to "plain view." Thus, the officer who smells marijuana in a car when she stops it for running a red light can search the car without a warrant.