Can Police Officer Search Your Pockets ?
In Commonwealth v. Stackfield, 438 Pa. Super. 88, 651 A.2d 558 (Pa. Super. 1994) an officer conducted a lawful pat-down search of appellant.
During the protective search, the officer patted down appellant's pockets, testifying that he "felt some - what he knew was packaging material or zip-lock baggies." 651 A.2d at 560.
Subsequently the officer reached in and pulled out numerous zip-lock baggies that had been in his pants pockets; the officer suspected the baggies contained cocaine residue and marijuana. Id.
On appeal, our court held that the officer was not permitted to search through the appellant's pockets due to the fact that "the officer found, or felt, nothing resembling a weapon in the course of the protective pat-down." Accordingly, our court reversed the trial court's decision to deny appellant's motion to suppress drugs found in appellant's pockets during the pat-down, vacated the judgment of sentence and remanded for a new trial. In reaching this decision, our court stated:
We find the record does not support the factual conclusion that the officer felt an item that he immediately recognized as contraband, as the Commonwealth and the trial court maintain.
A zip-lock baggie is not per se contraband, although material contained in a zip-lock baggie may well be.
A close reading of the record in appellant's case does not support a factual finding that the officer conducting the Terry pat-down recognized a "contour or mass that made its identity immediately apparent." Dickerson, 508 U.S. 366, 113 S. Ct. at 2137; Commonwealth v. Johnson, 429 Pa. Super.  at 166, 631 A.2d  at 1339
. . . . Sight unseen, the contents of the baggies that the officer felt in appellant's pants pockets could as easily have contained the remains of appellant's lunch as well as contraband. the record discloses that only after the officer reached in and seized the baggies from appellant's pockets that the contents in two of the baggies were identified, by sight, as a green, leafy material that subsequently field-tested positive for marijuana. Stackfield, 651 A.2d at 562.
"More specifically, the facts available to the officer conducting the search of appellant's pockets must have been such that he could reasonably believe that the items he felt may have been contraband." Id.