• Attorney Joseph Soler

What is a “Stop and Frisk” in Florida?

The Florida Stop and Frisk Law authorizes a police officer to:

  • Temporarily stop a person if circumstances reasonably indicate that the person has committed, or is about to commit, a crime or municipal ordinance violation

  • Search a person if there is probable cause to believe that the person is armed with a dangerous weapon

The officer may temporarily detain the person for two purposes:

  1. To determine the identity of the person (find out who they are)

  2. To determine the circumstances surrounding the person's presence (to find out what they are doing)

In order to legally detain under Florida’s Stop and Frisk Law, an officer needs specific facts to indicate that the person has committed, or is about to commit, a crime. A simple hunch or guess that a person may be involved in criminal activity is not enough to temporarily detain under Florida law.

When can a police officer search a person under the Florida Stop and Frisk Law?

In order to search a person under Florida’s Stop and Frisk Law, a police officer needs probable cause to believe the person:

  1. Is armed with a dangerous weapon, and

  2. Poses a threat to the officer or any other person

The officer can conduct a limited pat-down search

If the officer has probable cause to believe the person is armed with a dangerous weapon and posses a threat to the officer or another person, the officer can search the person only to the extent necessary to disclose the presence of a weapon. What this essentially means is that an officer can conduct a pat-down of the defendant's outer clothing. The officer should not go in to pockets, under clothes, or (from the outside of the pockets) squeeze objects that are inside the defendant's pockets.

In order for a stop and frisk search to be legal:

  • The stop must be temporary

  • The officer needs facts to indicate the person was involved in criminal activity

  • If there was a search, the officer needs facts to indicate the person was armed with a dangerous weapon

  • The person cannot be moved to another location before being searched

  • The officer cannot search beyond what is necessary to discover a weapon

How to beat a possession of drugs case if you were illegally stopped and frisked

If it is determined that a person was illegally stopped and searched, then a criminal defense lawyer can file a motion to suppress the arrest of the defendant and any evidence the police obtained as a result of the illegal stop and illegal search. If there were statements or admissions made by the defendant after the illegal stop or search, then the statements can be suppressed also. If the evidence cannot be used by the prosecutor, then the prosecutor may no longer be able to prove the case and it will likely be dropped.

What is an example of an illegal stop and frisk?

A police officer approaches a group of people on the street late at night minding their own business. The police officer does not have any facts that would indicate that the people are involved in criminal activity. The officer pulls a man from the group, puts him against a car and searches him. The officer finds a bag of cocaine in the man’s pocket and say’s, “what’s this?” The defendant says, “I don’t know man! These are my roommate’s pants!” The officer arrests the man and charges him with possession of a controlled substance.

In the above example, the police officer had no reasonable suspicion to believe the man was involved in criminal activity, yet stopped him anyway. The police officer also had no facts to indicate the man was armed with a dangerous weapon, yet the police officer searched him anyway. The man was illegally detained and illegally searched. If the judge rules in the man’s favor at a motion to suppress hearing, the bag of cocaine that was found will be suppressed as well as the man’s statement. If the drugs are suppressed, the state will no longer have sufficient evidence to prove the case and the charges will likely be dismissed.

If you believe you have been illegally stopped and frisked

If you believe that you have been illegally stopped or searched, and are interested in hiring a criminal attorney, please contact us for a free consultation. Also, our website contains a tremendous amount of information on various charges involving the possession of drugs and various defenses that can be used to beat a drug possession case. You can visit our Drug Possession page here.

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