This morning, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that under our state’s law, the plain view exception to the warrant requirement has three elements. These include:
1. The police officer must be lawfully in the viewing area.
2. The officer has to discover the evidence ‘inadvertently,’ meaning that he did not know in advance where evidence was located nor intend beforehand to seize it.
3. The officer has probable cause to associate the item with a violation of the law.
The determination by the court in this case, captioned State v. Mann, is important in that recent case law from the United States Supreme Court has called into question whether the “inadvertent” requirement is necessary under the Constitution. This case makes it clear that the three-step analysis is still required under New Jersey law.