What You Need To Know About Plain View, Expedient Circumstances, and Hot Pursuit
Video Transcribed: Oklahoma Attorney Isaiah Brydie with Urban Legal coming at you with another video. This video is going to be a continuation of our segment in criminal law and criminal procedure. This video is going to tackle three things. A lot of times you see them in movies and things like that. It’s really going to be on the plain view doctrine, which a lot of people kind of don’t know about, but it makes perfect common sense, exigent circumstances and hot pursuit. Just to give you a little, as a little background, I just came from watching American Gangster with Denzel Washington, excellent movie. He’s such a great actor. Shout out to Denzel. He’ll never see this, but there are a lot of things that come up in their movie that are really, really interesting and there are a lot of things that come up in most criminal movies that are really, really interesting.
We’re going to dive straight into this with the plain view doctrine. Like most things, criminal law, this is kind of plain on its face. I mean the plain view doctrine basically says that anything that a police officer sees that is in plain view of that police officer, that police officer can then seize as evidence of a crime and then subsequently arrest you and then do a continual search after that. A good example of this would be if you get pulled over in your car and while the cop is going to give you your traffic ticket, he sees a kilo of cocaine in the passenger seat. I don’t know why the kid, just go with me, just go with me. The cop sees the kilo of cocaine, he can seize that kilo. And it’s not a search, it is a seizure. It’s not a search. It’s lawful under the plain view doctrine because that police officers saw it in plain view.
Now there are a couple of things that set up the plain view doctrine. Number one, that police officer has to be legally in the place where he sees that thing. That police officer has to be in a public place or the police officer has to be on the street or that police officer has to be somewhere legally, meaning that he can’t be in this house illegally and then see something in plain view and then try to seize it. Now there are other legal doctrines that will allow for that evidence to still come in at someone’s subsequent trial and just saying that, “Oh this cop violated such and such… “, may not be an adequate means to get that evidence excluded.
But the plain view doctrine, it’s fairly regularly used by police officers. If the cops are just walking down the street and they look into your front window and they see you snorting cocaine and as plain view, they’ll probably just to cover all their bases, they’ll get a search or an arrest warrant. That’s probably what they should do, but they can at least go up and walk to your front door and then knock on your door. And then even right there, if they see the cocaine on the table, then it’s kind of downhill from there. The second legal doctrine is going to be what’s called exigent circumstances, so exigent circumstances is kind of going to be, again going to our cop that’s walking down the street. If the cop is walking down the street and he hears someone screaming, “help me, help me”, From a house or an apartment, that police officer can then kick the door down and try and assist that person because it’s an exigent circumstance.
If that police officer looks in the front window of someone’s house and see someone about to get murdered, it’s common sense that we would want that police officer to be able to assist that person in receiving protection from the person who was trying to murder them. I think that’s common sense on its face that the police can actually use a certain means to protect the general public from danger, that is right there in front of them. The last legal theory is going to be what’s called hot pursuit. Again, going back to the movie American Gangster, towards the end of the movie, there’s the scene where they’re breaking into the drug house or whatever. They have all the women that are there and they’re cutting up the heroin. They have the body guards or whatever at the doors. They run in and one of the guys runs out and the lead detective chases him down five stories of the building and then through like four or five different individual apartments and stuff.
That could be not a good example of the hot pursuit doctrine, but it should suffice. Basically, it’s the thinking of when you see someone that is committing a crime and then they subsequently run away from the police, the police can pursue that person under the hot pursuit doctrine. It has to be hot pursuit. It has to be like you saw that person right then and right there commit a crime and then they’re running from you. It can’t be you waited 30 minutes and then you started to chase the guy. No, it has to be hot. Now, there’s some question in the law as to how much of a time span there is and things like that, but just as a general premise, if the cops see you committing a crime and then you run away from the cops, the cops can chase you.
It’s cool. It’s highly questionable to the extent that is portrayed in movies, if that would still fall under hot pursuit, where you’re putting the general public potentially at risk from not only the assailant that you’re trying to apprehend, but also from yourself when you’re shooting into people’s homes or you’re mowing down cars on the highway and all that kind of stuff. That’s questionable and that’s probably going to open up the municipality to later subsequent lawsuits, but it serves as a good general means of depicting the hot pursuit doctrine. Go ahead and reach out to us at the email address or the website that you see in the comments or give us a phone call and you guys have a good day.