Monday, January 30, 2012

Lawyered!: Plain view doctrine and White Collar

This series will cover topics involving the law, law school and everything in between told from the perspective of a frightened, enlightened, irritated, and engaged law student. :)

It has been a time-tested, experienced-based rule of the universe that whenever you keep doing something for a long time--say, two years--chances are you're going to get bored. Two things I've been doing for almost two years are: blogging and being in law school.

To counter the effects of the rule, I blog about the law and try to equate, parallel or analogize it with something I love, and write under the title: Lawyered!. Example: Right to travel and Lily of How I Met Your Mother, etc.

Recently, I've blogged less Lawyered! stuff and busied myself with reviews of TV serieses to find a replacement for Chuck, which has aired its final series-ending episode last January 27. So to dovetail Lawyered! and Quest for the Next Best Series, here I am, writing about White Collar and search warrants.

The thing that impresses me most about my Criminal Procedure professor is his passion for the law. It is shown through his superb lecturing and teaching skills and knowledge of the law. In class, we are amazed at how much he knows about CrimPro (he knows the cases by heart and can recite them, unlike some of the profs I've had before, haha) and how dedicated he is to learning more about it. He updates his knowlegde by reading on new cases and sharing new-learned info to us.

Anyway, we've been discussing search warrants for about two or three weeks now. In the US, search warrants are governed by Supreme Court decisions in Katz vs. United States, Terry vs. Ohio,  State vs. Von Bulow etc. The general rule is: A search without warrant is illegal. But there are exceptions. One is the plain view doctrine as explained in Harris vs. United States (1968), Coolidge vs. New Hampshire (1971) and Arizona vs. Hicks (1987), as shown in the pilot episode of White Collar.

For the plain view doctine to apply, the following requisites must be present: (1) Lawful intrusion of the person/s doing the search into the private property being searched; (2) Inadvertent discovery of the items seized; and (3) Object seized is/appears to be a contraband or is evidence.

From 52:00 to the 54:56 mark of the White Collar Pilot episode, it is shown how a pursuit of a fugitive can justify the search of private property and seizure of obviously illegal items. The Dutchman, an art restorator suspected of forgering 1944 bonds, is caught at his warehouse printing tons of fake bonds when FBI agents barged in the said warehouse where a known fugitive named Neal Caffrey, who has GPS attached to his ankle, was tracked at.

Tim DeKay as Special Agent Peter Burke

Based on the requisites, there is a justified application of the plain view doctrine. Lawful intrusion: The FBI agents were there to catch a fugitive. Inadvertent discovery: No other act was done by the person/s doing the search in order to find out that the materials/items were being used to commit a forgery. They came in and saw them in the act of printing and/or trying to hide the said items. Apparently contraband/evidence: Printing high-definition copies of a 1944 rare bond (although many was made, there is only one surviving copy) without authorization to do so is, rightly, a forgery and art theft in the US.

Honestly, I didn't see the search warrant part coming thirty minutes into the episode but I loved and appreciated the fact that it did fit perfectly into the story. I know this makes me sound conceited but I will say this: I liked the "Aha!" moment I had when the plain view doctrine was shown/mentioned. It makes me feel proud that I was able to find something law-related in an unexpected moment and understanding it. Goes to show how you go on to do one thing, and turn out finding/liking something else fascinating about it. Aside from providing a good illustration of the application of the doctrine, this certainly is a plus factor in White Collar's favor*.


*More on White Collar in a QNBS review coming soon.

You may want to read:

Lawyered: The Law-down
Lawyered: Do the Math
Lawyered: Top Reasons Why You Should Date a Law Student

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