Ohio Judge Rules That Police Can't Search You For Being "Overly Polite"

An Ohio judge ruled last week
that a state highway patrolman was overstepping legal bounds when
he searched the vehicle of a driver who had been too polite to

The incident began when Patrolman Jared
Haslar, who had been patrolling a speed trap, pulled over Joshua
Fontaine for driving 45 mph in a 35 speed zone. According to the
court ruling, Ohio
v. Fontaine

Patrolman Haslar approached Fontaine’s vehicle, advised him
of the reason for the stop, and then requested his driver’s
license, proof of insurance, and registration, which Fontaine
immediately provided. Patrolman Haslar further stated that,
during this exchange, he became suspicious of criminal activity.
Specifically, Patrolman Haslar testified as follows: “While
speaking to Mr. Fontaine I felt that his body language and his
behavior was a little bit unusual. He was extremely — like almost
overly polite, and he was breathing heavily at times while I was
talking to him.”

Based on “reasonable suspicion” that Fontaine was up to no
good, Haslan brought the man back to his patrol car where he
patted him down for weapons and wrote up a traffic ticket. At this
point, a new officer, Patrolman Feierabend, arrived with a
drug-sniffing dog. The canine reportedly sniffed a positive so the
officers searched the vehicle sans warrant, uncovering a loaded .40
caliber handgun and a bag of marijuana. 

The trial court rejected the prosecution’s charge though and
ruled to suppress the firearm and marijuana from the evidence,
arguing that excessive politeness does not constitute probable
cause to search a vehicle. 

The state filed a motion to appeal, which Judge Mary J. Boyle
also rejected. The three-judge appellate panel considered only the
question of whether the initial search of Fontaine’s car violated
the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches. The
court found that as soon as Patrolman Haslar finished writing the
warning, he could not justify the search for drugs without some
evidence that criminal activity was afoot, reports the
, a political journal on driving. 

“We agree with the trial court that ‘overly polite’ and ‘heavy
breathing’ are not sufficient indicators that give rise to a
reasonable suspicion of criminal activity,” Judge Boyle concluded.
“These factors considered collectively simply do not support such a
finding. Since Patrolman Haslar did not have a reasonable suspicion
of criminal activity to warrant the canine sniff, the prolonged
detention to do so violated Fontaine’s constitutional Fourth
Amendment rights.”

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/04/ohio-judge-rules-that-police-cant-search

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