454 U.S. 952 (1981)

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U.S. Supreme Court

CROUCH v. U.S. , 454 U.S. 952 (1981)

454 U.S. 952

Gary Carwell CROUCH and Mary Crouch
No. 81-5009

Supreme Court of the United States

October 19, 1981

On petition for writ of certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

The petition for writ of certiorari is denied.

Justice WHITE, with whom Justice BRENNAN joins, dissenting.

This case raises the question of how "plain" objects in "plain view" must be in order to justify a warrantless search.

Page 454 U.S. 952 , 953

Specifically, it raises the question whether documents that must be read before their incriminating nature becomes evident are in plain view.

Petitioners are Mary Crouch and her son, Gary. On July 3, 1978, Gary Crouch was released for a 3-day furlough from Goodman Correctional Institute, where he was an inmate. Prior to his release, agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration had received information that indicated that Gary and Mary Crouch might be engaged in the manufacture of methamphetamine. [Footnote 1] On July 3, agents obtained a warrant authorizing a search of the Crouch residence for "chemicals, laboratory equipment, and other paraphernalia, which are used in the illegal manufacture of methamphetamines in violation of 21 U.S.C. 841(a)(1)." The warrant was executed on the afternoon of July 6.2 The officers found chemicals, laboratory equipment, and empty gelatin capsules, but no methamphetamine. During the course of the search, agents discovered, in a drawer of a desk, a bundle of letters in open envelopes addressed to Gary at the state penitentiary from Mary. The agents removed the letters, examined their contents and found that they contained information concerning the manufacture of methamphetamine. Subsequently, the agents found another batch of letters, from Gary to Mary, in Mary's purse (the purse does not seem to have been in her possession). These letters contained additional incriminating evidence. Both sets of letters were seized as evidence. [454 U.S. 952 , 954]

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