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Florida’s Stop and Frisk Law

Florida’s stop and frisk law permits a law enforcement officer to stop and temporarily detain a person and request identification if the officer has a reasonable suspicion that the person has committed, is committing, or is about to commit a crime. But wait, you say – isn’t it a violation of my civil rights for the police to detain me without probable cause to arrest me? Unfortunately, no.

While the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures has been interpreted to mean that police cannot seize and search an individual without a warrant based upon probable cause, stop and frisk laws and policies are an exception to this rule. In 1968, in the case of Terry v. Ohio, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that an officer may detain and search a person if that officer has a reasonable suspicion of criminal conduct. This “reasonable suspicion” standard is a lower threshold than the “probable cause” required for an actual arrest.

Under Florida’s stop and frisk law, a police officer may temporarily detain a person and ask for identification if the officer believes that the surrounding circumstances reasonably indicate that the person has committed, is committing, or is about to commit a crime. Florida courts have interpreted the law to require that the officer must have a “founded suspicion” for stopping the person, meaning that the officer’s suspicion must be based on observed facts as interpreted in light of the officer’s experience. A “bare suspicion” not based on observable facts is insufficient (for example, stopping a person based on race or simply for being in a high-crime area). The person cannot be detained for any longer than is reasonably necessary to ascertain his or her identity and reason for being in the particular location. Nor can the detention extend beyond the place where the individual was detained, or the immediate vicinity.

If upon further inquiry the officer discovers probable cause for arrest, the person should be arrested; if not, the person must be released. Note that if you are stopped and you refuse to provide ID or answer an officer’s questions, you could be arrested. Furthermore, if the officer has cause to believe that the person is armed with a deadly weapon, the officer may frisk the person to the extent necessary to detect the presence of such a weapon. If the officer finds a weapon or other evidence of illegal conduct (for example, drugs), the weapon or evidence is subject to seizure. If you are stopped and frisked illegally – that is, in the absence of reasonable suspicion – any evidence that may have been seized cannot be used against you.

Contact an Orlando criminal defense lawyer

If you believe that you have been subjected to an illegal stop and frisk, the experienced criminal and civil rights lawyers of The Baez Law Firm are here to help you defend your rights. With offices in Miami and Orlando, our skilled lawyers have the dedication and resources to vigorously pursue your case. Contact us for a consultation today.

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