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Extreme Politeness Is Insufficient Probable Cause for Search
In a case where a motorist was searched during a routine traffic stop, because of being too polite, and a .40 caliber Sig Sauer along with a little bag of marijuana seized, the Ohio Court of Appeals has suppressed the evidence.
The police submitted that they decided to search Joshua A. Fontaine because of his too polite behavior, which raised their suspicion – but the court held someone cannot be searched for just being too polite.
In the instant case, Ohio State Highway patrolman Jared Hasler was running a speed trap on a stretch of the road where the speed limit is 35 MPH. His radar gun clocked Fontaine speeding at 45 MPH and he was pulled over.
As soon as he was pulled over, Fontaine readily and cheerfully handed over his license, proof of insurance and registration, causing the officer to suspect that everything was not alright.
A drug dog was brought over to sniff Fontaine’s car and then he was ordered out of his car and the searched for weapons.
The patrolman testified, “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.”
The three-judge panel considered only the issue of Fontaine’s Fourth Amendment rights being violated during his initial search, and found that once the warning for speeding was complete, the patrolman couldn’t justify the search for drugs without further evidence of criminal activity.
Writing for the appeals court, Judge Mary J. Boyle observed, “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.”
The court held the search violated Fontaine’s Fourth Amendment rights and allowed the seized evidence to be suppressed.Extreme Politeness Is Insufficient Probable Cause for Search by Scott