Minnesota V Dickerson


Minnesota V. Dickerson Essay, Research Paper



Jurisdiction _____________________________________ 1

Statement of the Case ____________________________ 1-7

Question Presented _______________________________ 7-8

Summary of Argument ______________________________ 8-11

Analysis of Issue 1 ______________________________ 11-12

Analysis of Issue 2 ______________________________ 13-14

Conclusion _______________________________________ 14-15



Arizona vs. Hicks, 480 U.S 321 (1987)

Certiorari, 506 U.S. 814 (1992)

Illinois vs. Andreas, 463 U.S. 765 (1983)

Mapp vs. Ohio, 367 U.S. 643 (1961)

Michigan vs. Long, 463 U.S. 1032 n. 16 (1983)

Terry vs. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968)

Texas vs. Brown, 460 U.S. 730 (1983)

U.S. Constitution

Fourth Amendment

Plain Touch Doctrine


The Minnesota Supreme Court found the respondent Timothy Dickerson guilty of the possession of cocaine. The Minnesota Court of Appeals reversed the decision. The Supreme Court of the United States of America granted certiorari and found that contraband detected through touch shall be admissible in court. This was affirmed on June 7, 1993.


On the night of November 9, 1989 two Minneapolis law enforcement officers were patrolling an area on the city?s north side in a marked squad car. At 8:15 p.m. one of the patrolling police officers noticed the defendant, Timothy Dickerson, leaving a twelve-unit apartment building on Morgan Avenue North. This particular officer had often responded to calls from this building in the past regarding different drug violations. The building had notoriously been referred to as a ?crack house? and this is partially why the officers assumed there were illegal actions occurring when the respondent was leaving the location.

According to information released at the time of the trial, the defendant was walking toward the police officers? vehicle when he suddenly changed direction and began running away from where they were parked. The officers began to watch him suspiciously and observed his actions while he walked down a quiet and empty alley. The officers suspected that the defendant was involved in some type of drug trafficking and continued to follow him and investigate him further.

Before the trial the defendant moved to suppress the cocaine that was found by the officers that night. However, this was negated because the officers were justified from the case law under Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968). This case had very similar issues to that of the one in question dealing with past happenings with the law enforcement officers. In this situation a police detective named McFadden was patrolling the Cleveland area when he noticed two strangers on a street corner, one of which was the petitioner. Detective McFadden noticed that the two men were staring into a store window for a suspicious period of time. Even more suspicious was the fact that later that evening the two men met with a thirdman that also seemed to appear quite suspicious. Detective McFadden claimed that he felt that the three men were planning on robbing a nearby convenience store. The detective then decided to approach the three men and to explain who he was. The detective then went on to search the petitioner and found a pistol on the outside of his clothing but was somehow unable to remove it. Detective McFadden brought all three men down to the police station. The petitioner was charged with concealment of a weapon and the defense moved to suppress the weapon.

The proceedings that followed also related to the search and seizure issues presented in Minnesota vs. Dickerson. Also, in Terry vs. Ohio, the court denied the motion to suppress the weapon and allowed it to be used as evidence in the trial. Since the petitioner and the other two men were acting in such a conspicuous manner, it seemed understandable as to why the detective would be question their behavior. The petitioner and one of his friends were found guilty and the appellate court affirmed the original ruling. The issues that pertain to Minnesota vs. Dickerson involve the Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure. This amendment was put in effect with the purpose of protecting people against unreasonable behavior by a law enforcement officer who has the power to restrain someone. It is used as a restriction so that there is some guideline to where the power of the police ends and the rights of a citizen begin. The defendant argued that his

rights should have been protected over that of the store the detective thought to be in danger. Nevertheless, the issue of Detective McFadden?s behavior is not the issue that is at question. Rather, we should place more emphasis on the evidence that was suppressed at the time of the frisk. This case discussed similar issues that pertained to Minnesota vs. Dickerson and it is necessary to realize its importance and relevance to the circumstances at hand.

Mapp vs. Ohio 367 U.S. 643 (1961) is another case that can be referenced in making a decision for the present case. There was a similar situation involved in which an illegal or supposed illegal search was done in a woman?s house. The police officers entered the woman?s house and showed her a piece of paper that they claimed to be a warrant. The officers claimed the woman took the warrant in her hand yet no warrant could be presented at the time of trial. The officers found lewd apparel about her home such as movies, magazines, etc., and they convicted her. The case was appealed and the ruling reversed because the officers did not have reasonable ground to enter her home nor had they any proof that a warrant ever even existed.

After finding the gun in Minnesota vs. Dickerson, the law enforcement officers went on to question the defendant and order him to a pat-down search to check for anything else illegal that may have been on him. The police officers claimed that they felt a lump in his pocket while doing the previous search and they felt this was enough reason to search him for any other illegal matter he may have had on him. The officer continued to check him and found a small plastic bag containing one fifth of one gram of crack cocaine. The officers then arrested the defendant and charged him in the Hennepin County District Court with possession of a controlled substance. The court ruled that the officers had reasonable ground for searching the respondent. Under the ?Plain-view Doctrine? the officers can render a warrantless seizure of any types of contraband that they may find in plain view during a lawful search for other items. The court deemed the officers to be within their boundaries and found that the seizure of the contraband was not in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights.It is very difficult to know whether the officers really did have any reasonable cause to believe there an actual illegal activity was going to occur or whether that was just the excuse they used in order to search the respondent. Also there is a question whether or not the search was really in the context of the law. The issue regarding the ?plain-view doctrine? was brought up at the first trial and it was decided that plain feel is the same as plain sight. Therefore, it was shown that the officers were correct in their decision to continue searching the respondent and he was later found to be guilty of the possession.

The decision was reversed at the Minnesota Court of Appeals. The Minnesota Court, in using the decision made in Terry vs. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968). agreed with the trial court in that it found that the officers were lawful in following the respondent and proceeding to search him. Also that they had the right to follow and investigate him because they had reasonable suspicion that there were illegal substances on his being. However, the court ruled that the law enforcement officers may have stepped over their boundaries in the way they went about seizing the bag of cocaine they found on the respondent.The Minnesota Supreme Court affirmed the original decision and concluded that the stop and frisk were validunder Terry vs. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968) but found that the seizure of the cocaine was unconstitutional. The court expressly refused:

?to extend the plain view doctrine to the

sense of touch on the grounds that the sense

of touch is inherently less immediate and

less reliable than the sense of sight and

that the sense of touch is far more intrusive

into the personal privacy that is at the

core of the Fourth Amendment? 481 N.W.2d 840,

845 (1992).?

The court then stated that there will be a categorical rule barring the seizure of any contraband or substance detected by any law enforcement officer or official through the sense of touch during a patdown search for weapons.


Whether or not the Fourth Amendment issues raised during this case pertain to illegal search and seizure and whether they were violated in this instance. Whether their was a basis or legal value in following the respondent and searching him for contraband or weapons?.


The building the respondent was leaving had a reputation for being repeatedly busted for drug possession. However, this did not give the officers the right to follow him and pull him over in order to search him. The ?plain-view doctrine? allows law enforcement officers to investigate and search someone they feel may be hiding something illegal. The officers give comments within the case and proceedings that they clearly felt something was hidden within the respondent?s clothing, this shows that they had the legal right to remove the item.


While it may seem that the respondent was somehow robbed of his Fourth Amendment rights, he was violating the rule of law in a manner that was predominant over this right. It would be unrightful to assume that the law enforcement officers had no legitimate basis for searching the respondent. There obviously had to be some righteousness in their statement because the respondent was holding illegal narcotics when they frisked him.

However, from the other point of view, the respondent did not appear to give the officers any reason to believe that they were planning an illegal activity within their

plain-view. The officers claim to have felt something in the respondent?s pocket but it seems that the respondent did not give them enough reason to follow him in the first place.

The officers appear to be negligent in their actions in that they did not use their judgement correctly in deciding whether what they were doing was justified under the Fourth Amendment. The officers pulled over the respondent under false pretenses because they had no proof and no chance to see that they could have had contraband on them prior to pulling them over. There were obvious factors that made them the officers think the respondent was hiding something, however, they are not factors that make their response to the situation constitutional. Officers have the right to frisk, search and seize someone that has plainly shown that they have committed some illegal act. Otherwise, any other action followed for any other reason must be deemed unconstitutional.

It is important to realize the importance of the Constitution and what falls under it. These rules and standards were made to help protect the rights of the people so that there are some restrictions as to what rights we have against law enforcement. Both American citizens and American law enforcement officers need to pay attention to the significance of this document and need to learn and understand what exactly they protect people from. If people were better informed of what rights were protected under the Constitution than law enforcement officers would not be able to get away with most of the things they do. There are loopholes that officers know and use to their advantage that citizens would not know about unless they were involved in a situation. These discrepancies within the system are very common and we need to educate the public and help them to understand so that they do not get stuck in such a situation and then trials like these will not be needed.

I argue that although the officers were correct in assuming that the respondent was committing some illegal offense, there was no evidence in plain view that gave them the correct admissibility to search the respondent. The officers may have had a feeling that something illegal was going on but a feeling is not a legal basis for searching someone. Other cases have shown that the Fourth Amendment has strict guidelines and it is not sufficient to have a feeling about someone and pursue that suspicion. I agree with the decision of the Supreme Court that the stop and frisk of the respondent was valid under Terry vs. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968) but the seizure of the cocaine was unconstitutional on the basis that there is no ?plain feel exception?.

The respondent might have been guilty with the possession of illegal cocaine, nonetheless, certain other illegal actions took place on the side of law enforcement. The seizing of the narcotics was not done properly to the extent of the rules of law. It is unfair to infer that the officers were accurately obtaining the cocaine through legitimate and legal means because they did not use sight to confiscate the drugs but a sense of touch that is presumed to be more imprecise.


The first issue that was raised in the case of Minnesota vs. Dickerson was whether or not the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution was violated during the frisk of the respondent Timothy Dickerson. Although the police officers had a suspicion about the actions that took place after the respondent left the building priorly known for the illegal activity taken place there, it still seems quite difficult to decide whether the officers had the right to follow the respondent into the alley and search his belongings. The respondent did raise the officers? curiosities, however, it is still unknown whether their decision violated the liberties of the respondent.

Other cases have relevance to the Fourth Amendment rights granted to citizens and it is necessary to comprehend that discrepancies continue to take place within the justice system with regard to search and seizure. The frisking of an individual is a serious action and must be contemplated by law enforcement before it occurs. The reasons behind search and seizure must be legit and stated within the Constitution or else the evidence obtained can be declared unadmissible within a court of law regardless of what it was that may have been found.


The second important issue regarding the respondent?s legal rights is whether the officers were within the rules of law when they decided that feeling a lump in the respondents pocket was equivalent to that of seeing a lump in his pocket. In my opinion, the court should have allowed the submission of the cocaine because it was found, the officers had logical reasons to suspect the respondent, he felt something in his pocket and ?saw? him leave a building that has been consistently disrupted for illegal drugs. Therefore, the respondent was clearly guilty of possession of the cocaine and should have been convicted on all counts. There is no need to be so incredibly specific within this instance because what they saw with the respondent?s actions led them to feel and notice narcotics within his clothing.

It might be slightly more difficult to believe that the feeling of an object through someone?s clothing is not as accurate as seeing the object, however, that is not always true. It is unfair to assume that even if they saw a bulge in his pants? pocket, that it could have simply been a packet of tissues or something else that looked suspicious. When is the line drawn concerning the reasons to

embarrass and frisk someone against their will? The officers had a definite feel by their touch that something was being hidden and they wanted to find what it was because they had seen him act in a very sly and somewhat deviant way through his actions and where they witnessed him leave.

The main issue is that ?plain-view? differs from plain sight showing that the officers were unlawful in their actions when they frisked the respondent. It is now differentiated simply because of this specific case even though other cases have taken place before this one, they were under different circumstances and separate rules of law were the main concern in the court.


There are many reasons why someone is pulled over due to suspicions by police officers that arise by what they witness before their very eyes. However, there are rules and laws that need to be followed because law enforcement officers cannot simply take matters into their own hands and decide someone?s guilt or innocence. The realization that the officers stepped beyond their boundaries is important when deciding whether the respondent should have

been guilty under all the rules of law that currently

Kanthal 15


Other previous cases have relevance to Minnesota vs. Dickerson because they have set some of the standards that are presented within the Fourth Amendment and ?plain-view? doctrine. The Fourth Amendment has explicit rules that all supervene and that may not be exceptions unless there is dire need for them. The exclusionary rule is a different issue altogether and it has separate aspects pertaining to exceptions within certain rules of law. Nevertheless, this specific case has interesting issues concerning legal standards dealing with police or law enforcement misconduct with search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment. Many cases have dealt with these circumstances and issues and there is no doubt that more will approach the future.

Charrow, Veda R.,Erhardt, Myra K., Charrow, Robert P.,

?Clear and Effective Legal Writing, Second Edition?,

Little, Brown and Company, 1995.

?Criminal Law and Its Processes, Cases and Materials, Sixth Edition?, Little Brown and Company, 1995.

Findlaw.com. Minnesota vs. Dickerson, No. 91-2019. Http://www.ccrkba.org/ccrkba.org/pub/rkba/wais/data_files/h


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