Minnesota v. Dickerson, 508 U.S. 366, 9 (1993)

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Opinion of the Court


We have already held that police officers, at least under certain circumstances, may seize contraband detected during the lawful execution of a Terry search. In Michigan v. Long, supra, for example, police approached a man who had driven his car into a ditch and who appeared to be under the influence of some intoxicant. As the man moved to reenter the car from the roadside, police spotted a knife on the floor-board. The officers stopped the man, subjected him to a patdown search, and then inspected the interior of the vehicle for other weapons. During the search of the passenger compartment, the police discovered an open pouch containing marijuana and seized it. This Court upheld the validity of the search and seizure under Terry. The Court held first that, in the context of a roadside encounter, where police have reasonable suspicion based on specific and articulable facts to believe that a driver may be armed and dangerous, they may conduct a protective search for weapons not only of the driver's person but also of the passenger compartment of the automobile. 463 U. S., at 1049. Of course, the protective search of the vehicle, being justified solely by the danger that weapons stored there could be used against the officers or bystanders, must be "limited to those areas in which a weapon may be placed or hidden." Ibid. The Court then held: "If, while conducting a legitimate Terry search of the interior of the automobile, the officer should, as here, discover contraband other than weapons, he clearly cannot be required to ignore the contraband, and the Fourth Amendment does not require its suppression in such circumstances." Id., at 1050; accord, Sibron, 392 U. S., at 69-70 (White, J., concurring); id., at 79 (Harlan, J., concurring in result).

The Court in Long justified this latter holding by reference to our cases under the "plain-view" doctrine. See Long, supra, at 1050; see also United States v. Hensley, 469 U. S. 221, 235 (1985) (upholding plain-view seizure in context

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