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What is Florida’s Stop and Frisk Law?

Writing-Ticket-300x198In Florida, many drivers, pedestrians, and other occupants of Florida’s roadways and common areas are stopped by Law Enforcement Officers. What Florida laws prevail, when a police officer or law enforcement official stop a citizen of Florida whether driving an automobile, whether walking, or on any other common area of the State of Florida? The law that prevails is the Stop and Frisk law.

The Stop and Frisk law of Florida has its history from the strict meaning of the 4th Amendment of the US Constitution, which Florida’s Constitutional principles laminate. The strict meaning of the 4th Amendment only allows Law Enforcement Officials to seize a person if there is probable cause to arrest the individual for a criminal act. This principle of law, that a citizen could only be seized by police if there was probable cause to arrest the person, and its history of over 200 years, was uprooted with the US Supreme Court’s decision of Terry v. Ohio.

In 1968, the US Supreme Court decided contrary to the 4th Amendment and reversed 200 years of American Jurisprudence, when they reasoned in Terry v. Ohio that law enforcement officers were lawfully permitted to seize an individual for a short period of time, and to a lesser degree of evidence of guilt than probable cause that was need to arrest. Under Terry v. Ohio, if the officer believes there is suspicion of criminal conduct, than the officer may stop and seize the individual even if there is not enough evidence to arrest the person.  This lesser degree of suspicion of criminal conduct required to justify a citizen’s stop under Terry v. Ohio is “reasonable suspicion.”  After a “Terry” stop, the officer may then use his training and expertise to determine if there is more evidence that he or she has found after the “Terry” stop to form the basis of the arrest which requires “probable cause.”

In 1997, Florida again amended Terry v. Ohio, which it codified much early to read as follows:  Florida General Statute 901.151 reads as follows:

(1) This section may be known and cited as the “Florida Stop and Frisk Law.”

(2) Whenever any law enforcement officer of this state encounters any person under circumstances which reasonably indicate that such person has committed, is committing, or is about to commit a violation of the criminal laws of this state or the criminal ordinances of any municipality or county, the officer may temporarily detain such person for the purpose of ascertaining the identity of the person temporarily detained and the circumstances surrounding the person’s presence abroad which led the officer to believe that the person had committed, was committing, or was about to commit a criminal offense.

(3) No person shall be temporarily detained under the provisions of subsection (2) longer than is reasonably necessary to effect the purposes of that subsection. Such temporary detention shall not extend beyond the place where it was first effected or the immediate vicinity thereof.

(4) If at any time after the onset of the temporary detention authorized by subsection (2), probable cause for arrest of person shall appear, the person shall be arrested. If, after an inquiry into the circumstances which prompted the temporary detention, no probable cause for the arrest of the person shall appear, the person shall be released.

(5) Whenever any law enforcement officer authorized to detain temporarily any person under the provisions of subsection (2) has probable cause to believe that any person whom the officer has temporarily detained, or is about to detain temporarily, is armed with a dangerous weapon and therefore offers a threat to the safety of the officer or any other person, the officer may search such person so temporarily detained only to the extent necessary to disclose, and for the purpose of disclosing, the presence of such weapon. If such a search discloses such a weapon or any evidence of a criminal offense it may be seized.

(6) No evidence seized by a law enforcement officer in any search under this section shall be admissible against any person in any court of this state or political subdivision thereof unless the search which disclosed its existence was authorized by and conducted in compliance with the provisions of subsections (2)-(5).

The key area of concern for practicing criminal trial attorneys is section (3) of the stop and frisk statute. The components that criminal defense attorneys examine are whether the officer seized the driver, individual, or citizen in a common area of Florida, longer than is necessary to effect the purpose of the stop.

For instance, if the officer stops a driver of an automobile for a traffic citation, the length of stop cannot exceed what is reasonable to write out a citation or ticket to the driver. If a person walking down the street is stopped by law enforcement officials and asked questions, the time it takes to gain the information like the person’s name, address and pedigree information is all under a time limited of Florida’s stop and frisk law.  If the officer exceeds a reasonable period of time in gaining information about the pedestrian, any and all information the officer learned to formulate probable cause to arrest the driver, pedestrian or citizen will be dismissed or thrown out by the courts under the Fruits of the Poison Tree Doctrine. Therefore, the evidence that is deduced from the officer after the illegal detention, due to the extended time that the officer seized the person, will not be used against the person arrested and will be thrown out.

Always remember that as a driver, pedestrian or someone using the common areas of Florida, you are not required to provide any information to law enforcement officials or the police. If you are stopped in an automobile, provide the stopping officer your driver’s license, insurance information and vehicle registration, but do not tell the officer anything else. Do not let the officer search your automobile. The same is true if you are walking down the streets of Florida; you do not have to even speak to Law Enforcement Officials or the police.  You should not let law enforcement officials or police search your body or your packages.

In Florida, you are not required to show law enforcement officials your identification, tell them your name, race, sex or even talk to them. Under Florida’s Stop and Frisk law, which has taken away many of Floridian’s 4th Amendment’s rights, we must be smart and not allow law enforcement or the police to dupe us into criminal acts.

If you or a loved one has been stopped, arrested or is in jail on a criminal charge in Palm Beach County, FL then you ought to call Criminal Defense Attorney Andrew D. Stine.  Criminal Defense Lawyer Andrew D. Stine has been arguing for his clients for over a decade and will do the same for you or your loved one. If you arrested called today! Hire Stine or Do the Time!

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