Minnesota v. Dickerson

RESPONDENT:Timothy Dickerson
LOCATION:An apartment on the North Side

DOCKET NO.: 91-2019
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1991-1993)
LOWER COURT: Minnesota Supreme Court

CITATION: 508 US 366 (1993)
ARGUED: Mar 03, 1993
DECIDED: Jun 07, 1993

Michael O. Freeman – on behalf of the Petitioner
Peter W. Gorman – on behalf of the Respondent
Richard H. Seamon – for the United States, as amicus curiae, supporting the Petitioner

Facts of the case

On November 9, 1989, while exiting an apartment building with a history of cocaine trafficking, Timothy Dickerson spotted police officers and turned to walk in the opposite direction. In response, the officers commanded Dickerson to stop and proceeded to frisk him. An officer discovered a lump in Dickerson’s jacket pocket, and, upon further tactile investigation, formed the belief that it was cocaine. The officer reached into Dickerson’s pocket and confirmed that the lump was in fact a small bag of cocaine. Consequently, Dickerson was charged with possession of a controlled substance. He requested that the cocaine be excluded from evidence, but the trial court denied his request and he was found guilty. Minnesota Court of Appeals reversed, and the State Supreme Court affirmed the appellate court’s decision.


When a police officer detects contraband through his or her sense of touch during a protective patdown search, does the Fourth Amendment permit its seizure and subsequent introduction into evidence? Was the police officer who frisked Dickerson adhering to the Fourth Amendment when he formed the belief, through his sense of touch, that the lump in Dickerson’s jacket pocket was cocaine?