There are many reasons why individuals may prefer to avoid interactions with law enforcement professionals. Some people are naturally anxious when dealing with authority figures and would prefer to avoid the stress of such interactions. Plenty of others have heard stories about police officers abusing their authority and worry that they could end up enduring some kind of violation of their rights.
One of the many ways in which police officers can infringe on an individual’s rights and put them at a legal disadvantage is through inappropriate search and seizure practices. Police officers have an incentive to search someone whenever possible so that they can find evidence of a crime. Stop-and-frisk searches occur when someone is out in a public space and a police officer briefly stops them to investigate a seemingly suspicious situation. When can an officer lawfully stop someone or physically search them in Florida?
Officers can stop someone with a reasonable suspicion
When police officers patrol high-crime areas or are on the lookout for those who match the description of someone who committed a crime recently, they may want to speak with specific people to validate their suspicions or rule them out as a suspect. Florida law specifically allows police officers to stop people to briefly interact with them to validate or assuage their concerns that someone may have violated the law. The outcome of that interaction might then lead to enhanced screening.
Searches require more justification
Officers can briefly speak to someone but cannot arrest them without probable cause to believe that a crime occurred and that the individual involved committed it. An officer who has arrested someone will typically search them to ensure they do not bring anything illegal or dangerous into state facilities. However, officers who do not yet have reason to arrest someone may want to search their person. Officers often ask for permission and can search someone if granted that permission. Without consent, officers typically can only search when they have reason to believe that someone may have a weapon.
Without probable cause or suspicion of a weapon, a search of someone’s person could be a violation of their rights. Those arrested after a legally questionable search could potentially use that as part of their defense strategy. Learning more about the limitations on police officer conduct in Florida may benefit those recently arrested in the Sunshine State.