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Nervous? The Police Can’t Arrest You for That

Posted by Larry Avallone | Apr 17, 2020 | 0 Comments

Anyone who has been pulled over by a police officer knows that being a little bit nervous is to be expected. Yet, officers were previously using that nervousness as an excuse to search both cars and offenders themselves. The result? While the individual may have been pulled over for speeding, they ended up getting busted for offenses like the possession of a controlled substance. What began as a routine traffic stop ended up with a much more serious charge. 

There are two cases that stand for the proposition that nervousness alone is not an indicator of criminal activity. Rouse v. State; 643 So.2d 696, 697 (Fla. 1st DCA 1994) and State v. Arnold; 475 So.2d 301, 307 (Fla. 2d DCA 1985). Let's take a closer look at what happened in these cases and everything you need to know about your rights if it ever happens to you! 

Breaking down the cases 

In both these cases, the main item to note is that an officer cannot obtain a warrant to detain you, beyond what is necessary to address the severity of your traffic infractions on the grounds of nervousness. In the past, officers often stated that nervousness was enough to provide reasonable suspicion. They then used this reasonable suspicion to detain individuals during traffic stops and uncover larger crimes. Florida no longer allows this. If nervousness was the driver (no pun intended) behind increased suspicion at your traffic stop, it is possible to get your case dismissed. 

Rouse v. State 

In this case, the driver and passenger were both detained for an expired tag. That initial stop occurred in a high crime area and both appeared nervous according to the officer. The officer also stated that the individuals possessed traits common amongst drug dealers, one possessed a bundle of cash and the other was wearing gold jewelry. The court later deemed that detaining the driver and passenger was unlawful and that the State had no incriminating evidence to use in court. 

State v. Arnold 

This case follows a similar pattern. The officer stopped the defendant and judged him based on his personal appearance as well as his nervousness. He utilized this as reasonable suspicion in the stop and used it to justify his actions thereafter. The court then found that the officers did not have the proper reasonable suspicion based only upon nervousness. 

The takeaway

The courts note the fact that nervousness cannot possibly be a reliable indicator in traffic stop cases because individuals become nervous during routine traffic stops for numerous reasons. Whether you're completely innocent, or trying to cover up a larger crime, you could be displaying nervousness and an officer could be judging this incorrectly. This trait alone is not a definitive indicator and thus should not be used. 

Final thoughts 

If you have a case similar to what is described above, you may be able to have your case dismissed. The first step is calling a criminal defense lawyer you can trust. Avallone Law P.A. is in New Beach, Smyrna and ready to help. Visit here for more information!

About the Author

Larry Avallone

Larry Avallone is a Volusia County Florida based Board Certified Criminal Trial Attorney. He has been a Deputy Sheriff and a State Prosecutor and he exclusively practices criminal defense law.


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