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When can Florida police officers lawfully stop and frisk someone?

On Behalf of | Jan 8, 2024 | Criminal Defense

Police officers are often on the hunt for any signs of criminal activity. They may look for a reason to arrest people during traffic stops or encounters in public. Oftentimes, those interacting with police officers make small mistakes that end up giving the officers an opportunity to justify arresting them.

As a result, a failure to know and make use of one’s rights is a serious concern during an interaction with law enforcement professionals. Police officers often ask questions that allow them to sidestep rules that would otherwise limit their authority. For example, they often ask to search people or their vehicles. Without someone’s permission, there are only a few scenarios in which officers can legally search a person’s body or frisk them.

When is frisking an individual lawful?

When an officer believes there is a weapon

Florida’s stop-and-frisk law is very clear. Officers have the right to speak with individuals and to verify their identity if they suspect they may have engaged in criminal activity or intended to commit a crime. However, actually searching someone’s person requires more than just a general suspicion of illegal activity. Officers need to reasonably suspect that the person may have a weapon in their possession. Officers can frisk people to check them for weapons but not other contraband, such as drugs.

When an officer arrests someone

Once an officer has probable cause to believe that a crime actually occurred, they can arrest the person that they suspect of criminal activity. It could cause numerous safety issues to allow people to bring weapons and other contraband into state facilities. Therefore, the arrest process typically involves a thorough search of someone’s person. What police officers find when searching someone after arresting them might potentially lead to additional criminal charges or strengthen the claims that they make against that person.

Far too many people make the mistake of waiving their rights by giving police officers permission to search them physically during an encounter in public. Those who know and make use of their rights are less likely to make mistakes that increase their chances of criminal prosecution.