E.D.Pa.: Driver’s failure to laugh at odd question during stop not RS

Defendant’s failure to laugh at the question of whether he had “firearms, drugs, cats, dogs, alligators, and weapons” in his vehicle stop was not reasonable suspicion. United States v. Holloway, 2023 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 187752 (E.D. Pa. Oct. 18, 2023):

Officer Smart testified that he regularly asks individuals a question concerning possession of “firearms, drugs, cats, dogs, alligators, and weapons” at vehicle stops because it “helps [him] read people’s body language and their demeanor.” … He further testified that he was trained by other officers to infer that an individual who does not laugh at such a question is nervous about either firearms or narcotics … and that he typically receives a “laughing response” to that question …. While courts “do give considerable deference to police officers’ determinations of reasonable suspicion, … courts do not owe them blind deference.” United States v. Alvin, 701 F. App’x 151, 156 (3d Cir. 2017) (internal quotations omitted). The Court does not find that laughing at a law enforcement officer while being questioned about drugs and weapons would be an appropriate response. Moreover, failing to laugh at a bizarre question while being questioned about drugs and weapons does not create reasonable suspicion to remove an individual from a car after a traffic violation.

Note that the officer said he got that from other officers, not from official training.

Update: techdirt: Court Tells Cops That A Driver Not Laughing At An Officer’s Terrible Joke Is Not Reasonable Suspicion by Tim Cushing

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