Shipman v. State

In Shipman v. State, 291 Ala. 484, 282 So. 2d 700 (1973), several individuals were detained by police after a store owner complained that the individuals were misbehaving. Police observed one individual transfer an object (clearly not a weapon) from his hand into the top of his boot. Police seized the object under the plain view rationale. It turned out that the object contained heroin. The individual was convicted, but the conviction was reversed on the ground that there was no probable cause to believe that the object seized contained contraband. The Supreme Court of Alabama explained: The reason for this rule is apparent. If the rule were otherwise, an officer, acting on mere groundless suspicion, could seize anything and everything belonging to an individual which happened to be in plain view on the prospect that on further investigation some of it might prove to have been stolen or to be contraband. It would open the door to unreasonable confiscation of a person's property while a minute examination of it is made in an effort to find something criminal. Such a practice would amount to the "general exploratory search from one object to another until something incriminating at last emerges" which was condemned in Coolidge v. New Hampshire, 403 U.S. 443, Ex post facto justification of a seizure made on mere groundless suspicion, is totally contrary to the basic tenets of the Fourth Amendment. (Shipman, 291 Ala. at 488.)