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Warrants – Scope of Authorized Search

State v. James H. Oswald, 2000 WI App 3, 232 Wis.2d 103, 606 N.W.2d 238
For Oswald: James L. Fullin, Jr., SPD, Madison Appellate

Issue: Whether a search of documents exceeded the scope of a warrant authorizing a search for currency, among other things.

Holding: Because the warrant authorized a search for currency, the officers were allowed to look through documents where bills could have been hidden, and their discovery of incriminating notes and other items in those documents were therefore in plain view:

¶44                        Here, we agree with the State that the warrants authorized the searches.  “Generally a premises warrant authorizes the search of all items on the premises so long as those items are plausible receptacles of the objects of the search.”  State v. Andrews, 201 Wis.2d 383, 389, 549 N.W.2d 210, 212 (1996).  Here, currency was listed on the warrant, so the officers were justified in looking through documents where bills could have been hidden.  While looking through the documents, the officers noticed “various notes and items relating to bank robberies, … escape plans and battle notes.”  When the incriminating nature of a document is apparent from a brief perusal, such document is justifiably seized under the plain view doctrine.  See United States v. Crouch, 648 F.2d 932, 933 (4th Cir. 1981) (upholding seizure of letters taken from envelopes during search for chemicals).  We need not decide whether the warrant to search the minivan was granted due to the fruits of an illegal search by the bomb squad because the minivan was within the scope of the warrant to search the residence.  See O’Brien, 223 Wis.2d at 317-18, 588 N.W.2d at 14 (holding that warrant to search residence encompasses owner’s vehicle parked at residence).  Finally, because the search of the residence was within the scope of the warrant, the information leading to the warrant to search the storage locker was not tainted.


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