People v. Musa G.R. No. 96177, January 27, 1993 217 SCRA 597 (1993)

Facts: Prosecution evidence shows that in the morning of December 13, 1989, NARCOM conducted surveillance and test buy on a certain Mari Musa which the poser-buyer was able to buy one newspaper-wrapped dried marijuana for P10.00. The next day, a buy-bust was planned. The buy-bust money had been taken. poser-buyer approached Mari Musa said he wanted some more stuff. poser-buyer gave Mari Musa the P20.00 marked money. After receiving the money, Mari Musa went back to his house and came back and gave Amado Ani two newspaper wrappers containing dried marijuana. poser-buyer walked back towards his companions and raised his right hand. The two NARCOM teams, riding the two civilian vehicles, sped towards poser-buyer. Sgt. Belarga also found a plastic bag containing dried marijuana inside it somewhere in the kitchen. Mari Musa was then placed under arrest and brought to the NARCOM office. At Suterville, Sgt. Ani turned over to Sgt. Belarga the two newspaper-wrapped marijuana he had earlier bought from Mari Musa.

Issue: Whether the RTC erred in admitting the Plastic of Bag containing Marijuana by means of plain view doctrine

Held: No, In the instant case, the NARCOM agents searched the whole house and found the plastic bag in the kitchen. The plastic bag was, therefore, not within their “plain view” when they arrested the appellant as to justify its seizure. The NARCOM agents had to move from one portion of the house to another before they sighted the plastic bag. Moreover, when the NARCOM agents saw the plastic bag hanging in one corner of the kitchen, they had no clue as to its contents. They had to ask the appellant what the bag contained. When the appellant refused to respond, they opened it and found the marijuana.he NARCOM agents in this case could not have discovered the inculpatory nature of the contents of the bag had they not forcibly opened it. Even assuming then, that the NARCOM agents inadvertently came across the plastic bag because it was within their “plain view,” what may be said to be the object in their “plain view” was just the plastic bag and not the marijuana. The incriminating nature of the contents of the plastic bag was not immediately apparent from the “plain view” of said object. It cannot be claimed that the plastic bag clearly betrayed its contents, whether by its distinctive configuration, its transprarency, or otherwise, that its contents are obvious to an observer.

What the “plain view” cases have in common is that the police officer in each of them had a prior justification for an intrusion in the course of which he came inadvertently across a piece of evidence incriminating the accused. The doctrine serves to supplement the prior justification — whether it be a warrant for another object, hot pursuit, search incident to lawful arrest, or some other legitimate reason for being present unconnected with a search directed against the accused — and permits the warrantless seizure. Of course, the extension of the original justification is legitimate only where it is immediately apparent to the police that they have evidence before them; the “plain view” doctrine may not be used to extend a general exploratory search from one object to another until something incriminating at last emerges. What the “plain view” cases have in common is that the police officer in each of them had a prior justification for an intrusion in the course of which he came inadvertently across a piece of evidence incriminating the accused. The doctrine serves to supplement the prior justification — whether it be a warrant for another object, hot pursuit, search incident to lawful arrest, or some other legitimate reason for being present unconnected with a search directed against the accused — and permits the warrantless seizure. Of course, the extension of the original justification is legitimate only where it is immediately apparent to the police that they have evidence before them; the “plain view” doctrine may not be used to extend a general exploratory search from one object to another until something incriminating at last emerges.

 

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