Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Officer Allowed to Reach Into Pockets During Pat-Down Without Making Certain Objects are Weapons

U.S. v. Rochin, 2011 WL 6160499 (12/13/11) (N.M.) (Published) - The 10th holds that, during a legitimate pat-down search, an officer had the right to take out from the defendant's pockets "long and hard" objects [no jokes please] that the officer could not, and the defendant did not, identify as weapons. It was enough that "an objectively reasonable officer could have feared the objects might be used as instruments of assault." The objects turned out to be glass pipes containing drugs. The 10th rejected the defendant's contention that the officer should have continued to explore the shapes to see if the objects were weapons. But, the 10th declared "the 4th Amendment is not a game of blind man's bluff, requiring the officer to risk his safety or the safety of others while fishing around in the suspect's pockets." The 4th doesn't require "such potentially reckless punctiliousness."