The Plain Touch Doctrine: Political Affiliation and Judicial Decision-Making
Klein, Michael Shane
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The Plain Touch exception to the Fourth Amendment allows police officers to seize contraband that is found during a Terry frisk. The exception, as outlined in the case of Minnesota v. Dickerson, extends the doctrine of Terry v. Ohio and further bolsters the abilities of police officers to seize evidence without a warrant. Critics of the Dickerson decision believed that the plain touch exception was a “conservative” decision that would destroy essential civil liberties. This study tested whether or not “conservative” politics have influenced the development of the plain touch doctrine. A doctrinal analysis of the appellate court cases in both federal circuit courts and state supreme courts revealed that the plain touch doctrine has developed in a manner that still safeguards civil liberties. However, a binary logistic regression analysis did reveal that the political affiliation of state supreme court judges has influenced the development of the plain touch doctrine.