– An officer saw an unidentified person fire a gun. An officer saw Δ, who matched the description of the shooter. The officer stopped Δ and patted him down. The officer felt what he believed to be a possible narcotic substance. The officer slid his finger into Δ’s pocket and found cocaine. After being convicted of possession of cocaine, Δ appealed, arguing that the cocaine should have been suppressed.  “When a police officer makes a Terry stop, if he has a reasonable fear of danger, he may conduct a carefully limited search of the outer clothing of the suspect in an attempt to discover weapons which might be used to assault him. The purpose of a Terry search is not to discover evidence of a crime but rather to allow an officer to pursue his investigation without fear of violence. Thus, a Terry search should be confined to its protective purpose.” Johnson at 928.  “The seizure of contraband detected during the lawful execution of a Terry search is permissible under the ‘plain feel’ doctrine. . . If a police officer lawfully pats down a suspect’s outer clothing and feels an object whose contour or mass makes its identity immediately apparent, there has been no invasion of the suspect’s privacy beyond that already authorized by the officer’s search for weapons.” Johnson at 928.  “[The officer] indicated that he ‘believed’ the contraband could ‘possibly’ have been a narcotic. He admitted that it ‘could have been something else’ besides a narcotic. . . The officer’s testimony does not reflect that . . . the identity of the cocaine was ‘immediately apparent’ to him.” Johnson at 928.   The search exceeded the scope of a lawful patdown. The cocaine should be suppressed.  Johnson v. State, 710 N.E.2d 925 (Ind. App. 1999).

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Jeff Rocks
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