Police Search for Marijuana

The questions of the fortnight seem to be about pot. We have received many questions over the last two weeks about weed, so I felt obliged to post a generic version of the questions:

I am at a holiday party where booze and weed are present. Everyone is imbibing one or the other. Suddenly the police are at the front door responding to a noise complainant. Someone puts a newspaper on top of the weed on the kitchen table. The person who answers the door lets the cops into the house. The cops start to walk around the house. Eventually one of the police officers lifts up the newspaper on the kitchen table and sees the pot. I get charged with the pot. Was the activity of the police officer legal or illegal?

In order to enter the home of another to search or seize, the cops need a warrant. There are many exceptions to this rule and police often do fall under one of these exceptions when they enter a house. One of these exceptions is consent. In the above question, the person who answered the door "let" the police into the house, meaning they gave their consent.

Once inside the house, the police can basically walk through the house and seize any items in plain view that are contraband or dangerous, like guns or drugs. Plain view means the item(s) must be readily apparent to the naked eye. In the instant case, the weed is under the newspaper, so the cop would have had to LIFT the newspaper in order to see the week--they can't do this.

Therefore, the marijuana should be suppressed. After the Judge rules that the weed is suppressed the District Attorney will usually withdraw prosecution in the case.

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