AL: Manipulating object in pocket of person leaving a drug house exceeded Terry

Defendant’s patdown resulted in an impermissible Terry and Dickerson search of her pocket. The state never showed it was apparent that the object being manipulated was a weapon. It was a search for drugs because she was stopped leaving a drug house. Ex Parte Gardner (Gardner v. State), 2020 Ala. LEXIS 138 (Sept. 25, 2020) (5-4):

This case fits within the rationale of Dickerson. There was no evidence presented at the suppression hearing indicating that Detective Dailey ever believed that she felt a weapon during a patdown search of Gardner. There was also no evidence indicating that Detective Dailey immediately believed the bulge in Gardner’s pocket to be methamphetamine during the patdown search. Detective Curley testified at the suppression hearing that “‘we felt a bulge in her left pocket that was consistent — once we grabbed hold of it, was crunchy, which is consistent with methamphetamine. It’s kind of like salt. You know when you grab hold of it.'” Gardner, _ So. 3d at _ (emphasis added). Detective Curley’s testimony is similar to that of the officer in Dickerson.

Terry and Dickerson allow law-enforcement officers to pat down a suspect’s outer clothing for weapons or possible contraband. As explained in Dickerson, officers are not permitted to squeeze or otherwise to manipulate a suspect’s clothing to find contraband that the officer knows is not a weapon. Based on Detective Curley’s testimony, that appears to be exactly what Detective Dailey did, and Detective Dailey did not testify at the suppression hearing to explain or to provide additional context. Accordingly, based on the facts in the record, the methamphetamine was illegally seized and evidence of it should have been suppressed. The Court of Criminal Appeals’ opinion conflicts with Terry, Dickerson, and Ex parte Warren, and its judgment is, therefore, reversed. The cause is remanded for the Court of Criminal Appeals to enter a judgment consistent with this opinion.

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