Minnesota v. Dickerson, 508 U.S. 366, 11 (1993)

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Opinion of the Court

would be justified by the same practical considerations that inhere in the plain-view context.3

The Minnesota Supreme Court rejected an analogy to the plain-view doctrine on two grounds: first, its belief that "the sense of touch is inherently less immediate and less reliable than the sense of sight," and second, that "the sense of touch is far more intrusive into the personal privacy that is at the core of the [F]ourth [A]mendment." 481 N. W. 2d, at 845. We have a somewhat different view. First, Terry itself demonstrates that the sense of touch is capable of revealing the nature of an object with sufficient reliability to support a seizure. The very premise of Terry, after all, is that officers will be able to detect the presence of weapons through the sense of touch and Terry upheld precisely such a seizure. Even if it were true that the sense of touch is generally less reliable than the sense of sight, that only suggests that officers will less often be able to justify seizures of unseen contraband. Regardless of whether the officer detects the contraband by sight or by touch, however, the Fourth Amendment's requirement that the officer have probable cause to believe that the item is contraband before seizing it ensures against excessively speculative seizures.4 The

3 "[T]he police officer in each [case would have] had a prior justification for an intrusion in the course of which he came inadvertently across a piece of evidence incriminating the accused. The doctrine serves to supplement the prior justification . . . and permits the warrantless seizure." Coolidge v. New Hampshire, 403 U. S. 443, 466 (1971) (opinion of Stewart, J.).

4 We also note that this Court's opinion in Ybarra v. Illinois, 444 U. S. 85 (1979), appeared to contemplate the possibility that police officers could obtain probable cause justifying a seizure of contraband through the sense of touch. In that case, police officers had entered a tavern and subjected its patrons to patdown searches. While patting down the petitioner Ybarra, an "officer felt what he described as 'a cigarette pack with objects in it,' " seized it, and discovered heroin inside. Id., at 88-89. The State argued that the seizure was constitutional on the grounds that the officer obtained probable cause to believe that Ybarra was carrying contraband during the course of a lawful Terry frisk. Ybarra, supra, at 92. This

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