Why the Plain View Doctrine Should Not Apply to Digital Evidence
George Washington University Law School
Suffolk Journal of Trial and Appellate Advocacy, Vol. 12, pp. 31-67, Spring 2007
This paper argues that the plain view doctrine, an exception to the Fourth Amendment, should not apply to digital evidence. Searches pursuant to warrants for digital property are easily transformed into general searches of a suspect's digital property because police, by necessity, must perform a comprehensive search of a suspect's digital property in order to properly execute a digital property warrant. Courts have already begun to apply the plain view doctrine in a manner that allows police to use anything found during a search of digital property (e.g., computers) as evidence of crimes beyond the scope of the warrant. General searches are proscribed by the Fourth Amendment. Therefore, courts should stop applying the plain view doctrine to digital evidence.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 37
Keywords: Plain View Doctrine, Plain View, Fourth Amendment, Search, Seizure, Evidence, Digital Property, Digital Evidence, General Searches, General Warrants
JEL Classification: K14, K49
Date posted: December 6, 2006