This Comment argues that Washington should return to an independent analysis of search and seizure doctrine under article I, section 7 of the state constitution and reject the admission of contraband seized during the course of a pat-down frisk. The decisions in Hudson and Dickerson have established an unnecessary and unworkable standard, and involve an increased invasion of personal privacy without the counter-balancing need to protect the safety of others. The plain feel doctrine as announced in Dickerson and Hudson developed from two well-established concepts in search and seizure law-the Terry frisk of persons to discover weapons and the plain view doctrine. Both concepts involve specific exceptions to the requirement of the Fourth Amendment that searches may be conducted only with the authorization of a warrant. Accordingly, Part II describes the principles of the Terry frisk and the plain view doctrine. Part III details the Supreme Court's decision in Dickerson. Part IV discusses the holdings of the primary search and seizure cases decided in Washington before Dickerson, and is followed, in Part V, by a description of the two Washington cases that have been decided since Dickerson. Part VI is a brief discussion of Washington constitutional analysis, laying the groundwork for distinguishing the right to privacy under article I, section 7 of the Washington Constitution from the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures under the Fourth Amendment. Finally, Part VII argues that Washington courts should depart from the ruling in Dickerson and continue to exclude contraband that is seized during a frisk for weapons because the plain feel doctrine is unnecessary, unworkable, subject to abuse and, most importantly, does not adequately protect the privacy interests of Washington citizens.
Laura T. Bradley, The Plain Feel Doctrine in Washington: An Opportunity to Provide Greater Protections of Privacy to Citizens of this State, 19 SEATTLE U. L. REV. 131 (1995).