The MN Court of Appeals reversed a Felony 5th Degree Drug conviction where the officer discovered drugs after searching the defendant. The officer’s basis for the pat-search was largely based on the defendant acting nervous and placing his hands in his pockets. The Court held that the officer did not have “reasonable, articulable suspicion of criminal activity,” the legal requirement needed before an officer can conduct a protective pat-down search for weapons.
Although I often see police reports describing nervous and fidgety behavior as a basis some suspected criminal wrongdoing, most people are rightfully nervous when confronted by law enforcement. Regardless of guilt, being questioned or stopped by law enforcement can be stressful, and the level of nervousness varies greatly from person to person. From legitimate anxiety issues to lacking experience with the law, there is no right or innocent body language or behavior given the stress of such an encounter. For these reasons, MN courts are reluctant to find that nervous behavior meets the legal standard of “reasonable, articulable suspicion of criminal activity.”
Read the full court decision here.
Coley Grostyan is a Minneapolis based drug defense attorney.