Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Plain Feel Doctrine Applies to Patdown

State v. Harriman, no. 06-1309 (Iowa Ct. App. May 23, 2007).

A Waterloo officer stopped a car with a bad muffler. The driver was found to be driving while barred and he was arrested and placed in the squad car. Harriman, who was sitting in the passenger seat with his hand in his pocket was asked to exit the vehicle. Harriman again put his hand in his right front pocket and was told to keep his hands out of his pockets.

A patdown revealed a bulge in the pocket that felt like sand in a plastic bag and when Harriman did not respond to the officer's inquiry the bulge was retrieved and proved to be two packages of drugs. Harriman was arrested and a search of the vehicle revealed a large amount of cash and a metal can with more narcotics. The total take exceeded nine grams of methamphetamine.

Harriman moved to suppress the evidence, the district court denied the motion, and Harriman was convicted of possession with intent to deliver and tax stamp violations.

Harriman alleges that the pat down went beyond the 'plain feel' exception of Minnesota v. Dickerson, 508 U.S. 366 (1993), in particular squeezing, sliding or otherwise attempting to discern the nature of the non weapon object. The court of appeals concluded that there was no evidence to support Harriman's claims of manipulation of the item of contraband, and the testimony of the officer was that he clearly recognized the objects to be bags of narcotics.

When the nature of the contraband is immediately apparent while discovered in the process of a patdown, there is no further search after the determination that the object was not a weapon.


Post a Comment

<< Home