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Plain view seizure of drugs from car reasonable

Facts

In 2017, officers from Philadelphia P.D. were dispatched to a call near Loper Street. Officer Daniel Winstead saw a black vehicle he recognized from around town and ran the license plate. He learned one of the registered owners, Travis Boler, had outstanding warrants from the city.

As officers approached the vehicle, Boler drove into a driveway of an unknown residence and threw his keys to a woman nearby. Officers summoned Boler back to the police and arrested him for the outstanding warrants. Officer Jeremy May shined a flashlight through the windshield and noticed a crystal like substance in the center console.

The unlocked car door was opened and the drugs were retrieved. Boler was convicted and sentenced to eight years for possession of cocaine and methamphetamine. On appeal, he argued the officer illegally retrieved the drugs from his car. MCOA affirmed.

Analysis

In Townsend, MSC held that objects falling in plain view of an officer who has a right to be in the position to have that view are subject to seizure and may be introduced in evidence. Here, May testified that following Boler’s arrest, he walked up to the car and shined the light through the passenger window, just to make sure there was not anybody else in the car.

When he shined the light, he saw a bag of crystal like substance near the center console in plain view. He then opened the passenger door and saw the methamphetamine and marijuana in the center console. The officer was justified in his actions.

 

https://courts.ms.gov/Images/Opinions/CO147488.pdf