“Stop and frisk” refers to the police action of detaining a person for investigation and conducting a superficial inspection of the suspects body and clothes for contraband (Schmalleger. Criminal Justice Today. Pg 714). The importance of “stop and frisk” to our studies is that this tactic falls in somewhat of a constitutional grey area in that it is not a formal “search” as defined by the 4th Amendment and therefore does not require the same constitutional protections as does a formal search but can still to incriminate a suspect.
Originating from the Supreme Court case of Harris v. U.S., the plain view doctrine is roughly defined as “objects falling in the plain view of an officer who has a right to be in that position to have that view are subject to seizure…”(Schmalleger. Criminal Justice Today. Pg 230) hence meaning if, for example, a crack pipe is discovered in plain view by an officer during a routine traffic stop, it may be seized and used as evidence in a drug case against the driver. The plain view doctrine is vital to our studies in that it highlights how case law can affect the day to day operations of law enforcement officials since without the original Harris case as guiding case law, a strict interpretation of the 4th Amendment would then require a search warrant to first be issued to obtain evidence even if it was in plain view.
Contrasting sharply from the plain view doctrine is the “exclusionary rule”, which is derived from the Weeks v. U.S. (1914) case and it is a case law rule that states that any incriminating evidence seized by a law enforcement official without first obtaining a constitutionally mandated warrant to search violates the due process clause and is an invalid search thereby excluding the seized evidence. The “exclusionary rule” is important to our study of criminal justice because it shows that even though the principal function of the law is to secure public order, the officials charged with the duty of upholding the law are not above it therefore they must follow the letter of the law, such as the 4th Amendment’s requirement of a warrant to perform a search.
The “good faith exception” is a case law modification to the “exclusionary rule” and was first set forth by the Supreme Court, which held in U.S. v. Leon (1984) that evidence obtained illegally (ie not through a search warrant) could still be used in court if it was seized in “good faith” and if the benefit issued to the defendants by the suppression of the evidence “offends the basic concepts of the criminal justice system.” (Schmalleger. Criminal Justice Today. Pg 228-229). The good faith exception is vital to our studies of the criminal justice system because, as the book indicated, the exception itself is arguably the “chipping away” of the exclusionary rule as set forth in the 4th Amendment and it highlights a the leeway given to law enforcement officials if they are acting in good faith but also offers valid questions as to whether the 4th Amendment is being violated by such an exception.
Simply defined, “probable cause” refers to sufficient reason to believe a criminal act has taken place or that a suspect is involved given the facts and/or circumstances presented. Probable cause is important to our study of the criminal justice system because it is the benchmark standard for law enforcement movement on criminal matters (ex. having enough probable cause to obtain a bench warrant for a search or having probable cause to stop a motorist suspected of D.W.I.).
A “search incident to arrest” is an exception to the 4th Amendment’s requirement of a warrant for a search and seizure and it means that an arresting officer, for his own safety and the safety of those around him, may conduct a weapons and/or contraband search on a suspect and in the suspects immediate area without first obtaining a search warrant from a court. A search incident to arrest is important to our studies because it offers, much akin to the “stop and frisk” and “plain view” doctrines, the search incident to arrest is another case law exception to the 4th Amendment’s warrant requirement and exhibits some leniency given to law enforcement officials by the courts on this constitutional matter.