Minnesota v. Dickerson Case Brief

Summary of Minnesota v. Dickerson, Supreme Court of United States (1993)

Respondent/Defendant: Dickerson; officers saw the defendant coming out of a crack house. The officers, from the behavior of the defendant and from their past experience, got reasonable suspicion that the defendant was involved in illegal conduct. The officers stopped the defendant to question and frisked him for weapons. The officer searching the defendant did not feel any weapons, but he did feel something which he felt could be cocaine. The officer closely felt the object and then took it out of defendant’s pocket and it was cocaine. The trial court convicted the defendant. The Supreme Court of Minnesota reversed the conviction stating that the officers stepped over their legal limits when they took the cocaine out of defendant’s pocket. Now the state appeals.

Issue: Did the officers go beyond the constitutional limits when they took the cocaine out of defendant’s pocket?

Holding: Yes if had no probable cause/No if had probable cause

Key Facts: Under Terry v. Ohio, an officer, upon reasonable suspicion, can stop a person to ask him/her questions and the officer can frisk the person to see if the person is armed. (This frisk is usually called Terry frisk)

Legal Reasoning: The court ruled that when an officer stops a person for reasonable suspicion of criminal activity, he can give him/her Terry frisk to see if the person is armed. The court further ruled that if during the search, the officer finds someting in plain view of in plain feel which gives him probable cause to believe that it is a contraband, then he has the power to obtain this contraband. But, the court stated, in the current case, the officer did not have the probable cause to believe that the object was cocaine and he had to do further search to come to this conclusion. So the court ruled that since the officer conducted further search to make sure that the object was cocaine, he clearly went beyond his limits and the decsion of the lower court was affirmed.

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