Plain-Touch Doctrine Law and Legal Definition

Plain touch doctrine is a principle of criminal law that allows a police officer to seize without a warrant any contraband that the officer can immediately and clearly identify, by touch during a legal pat-down search. If a police officer lawfully pats down a suspect's outer clothing and feels an object whose contour or mass makes its identity immediately apparent, there is no invasion of the suspect's privacy beyond that already authorized by the officer's search for weapons. If the object is contraband, warrant less seizure of the same is justified according to the doctrine. However, such searches permitted without a warrant and on the basis of reasonable suspicion less than probable cause must be strictly limited to that which is necessary for the discovery of weapons which might be used to harm the officer or others nearby. If the protective search goes beyond what is necessary to determine if the suspect is armed, it is no longer valid under Terry and its fruits will be suppressed. The standard was set in the case Minn. v. Dickerson, 508 U.S. 366 (U.S. 1993).