in the street by the 280 ZX. Officer Nitz stopped the defendant and asked him where he lived. As the defendant turned rearward to point out his house, Officer Nitz observed the defendant attempt to pull an object out of his pants pocket. Officer Nitz observed the object to be clear plastic. Apparently, as the defendant realized that he was not going to be able to remove the object without Officer Nitz observing the action, the defendant quickly pushed his hand deep into his pocket.
Officer Nitz then searched the defendant and found a clear plastic bag containing a tannish-colored rock-like substance in the same pants pocket from which the defendant had attempted to remove an object earlier.
It is true that the defendant was subjected to a warrantless seizure, search and arrest on August 28, 1991. It is also true from the nature of the encounter that the defendant could not have felt free to disregard the police presence and have gone about his business. The physical evidence at issue, approximately 6.5 grams of a controlled substance known as "crack" cocaine, or cocaine base, was found on the defendant prior to his arrest. This was not a search incident to arrest.
The law is clear. Police officers do not need a warrant to detain, briefly question and pat down (frisk) an individual reasonably suspected of engaging in criminal activity. Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 22-24, 20 L. Ed. 2d 889, 88 S. Ct. 1868 (1968). Police officers may perform these investigatory detentions on the basis of reasonable and articulable suspicion. Id. at 21-22. The standard is that the government must point to specific facts, together with rational inferences drawn from those facts that reasonably suggest that criminal activity has occurred or is imminent. Id.
The specific facts and rational inferences are also clear. Officer Nitz is an experienced police officer with seven years in drug enforcement and has participated in approximately three thousand arrests. Having previously observed the defendant reach towards the object held in Broadus's hand which was seen to be "light colored," that Officer Nitz testified he thought was a plastic object and plastic is a known container for storing and distributing drugs, Officer Nitz had an articulable suspicion to stop Dicks.
Warrantless searches may be conducted with probable cause when there are exigent circumstances which justify such an intrusion. Exigent circumstances exist in a search for evidence when such evidence is in imminent danger of being hidden or destroyed. Schmerber v. California, 384 U.S. 757, 761-77, 16 L. Ed. 2d 908, 86 S. Ct. 1826 (1966); United States v. Ollet, 848 F.2d 1193, 1195 (11th Cir.) (per curiam), cert. denied, 488 U.S. 996 (1988); United States v. Socey, 269 App. D.C. 453, 846 F.2d 1439, 1447-48 (D.C. Cir.), cert. denied, 488 U.S. 858, 102 L. Ed. 2d 123, 109 S. Ct. 152 (1988).
Once Officer Nitz asked the defendant where he lived and observed the defendant's attempt to drop or secrete the clear plastic object in his pocket, the officer had probable cause to believe that a crime had been or was being committed. Because narcotics may be easily hidden, secreted, dropped, or otherwise destroyed, a warrantless search of the defendant's person was justified.
United States v. White, 211 App. D.C. 72, 655 F.2d 1302 (D.C. Cir. 1981), is dispositive of whether the officers in this case had probable cause. In White, probable cause was found to exist where two experienced police officers observed the defendant exchange currency for a small object, place the object in his pocket and walk away. The "high-crime" character of an area or neighborhood was also found to be a relevant factor in determining whether there was probable cause to search or arrest. Id. at 1304. In this case, there were four experienced police officers who saw the transaction described in an area known for narcotics trafficking. In addition, there was the action of the defendant in attempting to secrete or drop the object that was in his pocket which makes the search of that pocket reasonable and legal.
For all of the foregoing reasons, and crediting Officer Nitz's testimony at a hearing on this matter, it is by the Court this 29th day of April, 1992,
ORDERED that defendant's motion be, and hereby is, denied.
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