If you’re stopped by the police, don’t shake. It might be used as a reason to search your car, according to the Minnesota Supreme Court.
In July 2009, two Minnesota State Troopers stopped Brandon Smith for driving 77 in a 65-mile-per-hour zone. When answering the troopers’ questions about whether he knew why he was being stopped, Smith appeared to be shaking and the troopers figured he was nervous about something. They didn’t believe his excuse that he shakes because of a medical condition.
When asked, Smith acknowledged he had a pistol in the car, and that the license to carry it had been revoked. The troopers handcuffed him and searched the car.
After his conviction, Smith appealed admission of the pistol into evidence, claiming the search was illegal because the troopers expanded the scope of the reason for pulling him over by asking him whether he had any weapons in the car.
In a decision today, Justice Paul Anderson rejected the claim. “We can do so because we conclude that Smith’s extreme shaking and his evasive response when asked about his shaking provided the officers with reasonable, articulable suspicion sufficient to support an expansion of the traffic stop,” Anderson wrote.
“We recognize that ordinary drivers may become nervous during a routine traffic stop,” he said. “But Smith’s nervousness appears to have manifested itself in a severe physical manner, distinguishing it from past cases in which we decided nervousness was an insufficient basis to establish reasonable suspicion of illegal activity.”
But dissenting from the opinion, Justice Alan Page said a driver’s nervousness doesn’t give police a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. “It is not illegal for an out-of-state traveler, who suffers from a medical condition like Parkinson’s Disease, to pull over to the side of the highway to input an address into his or her GPS,” Page wrote.
Here’s the full decision.