Pressure on law enforcement to get tough on crime in New York City has resulted in a decision to stem abuse of that city’s controversial stop-and-frisk laws. A federal court recently held that the practice of routinely frisking mostly young men of color for weapons or contraband in so-called high-crime areas before releasing them violates Fourth Amendment protections — and amounts to racial profiling.
What Florida police can do under state stop-and-frisk law
Florida’s stop-and-frisk law is constitutionally based and embodied in statute. That doesn’t mean, however, that all police follow the law to the letter. If police reasonably suspect someone of criminal activity, they may proceed as follows:
Making a stop – Police can briefly detain a citizen based on a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. This detention can only be long enough to allow the suspicion to dissipate or for facts to arise that give probable cause for arrest. An officer is permitted to ascertain the citizen’s identity and reason for being at that particular location.
Frisking the detainee – The person detained by the officer can be “frisked” or subjected to a pat-down search of the outer clothing only if the officer has probable cause to believe the person detained is armed with a dangerous weapon.
Arresting the detainee – If the officer locates a dangerous weapon on the detainee, or other evidence during the detention leads to probable cause to believe the detainee is involved in criminal activity, the officer makes an arrest.
Your remedy for illegal stop-and-frisk actions
The remedy for illegal police action is suppressing any evidence seized during the detention. No evidence seized during a stop-and-frisk is admissible in court unless the seizure complied with state and federal constitutional protections. Your attorney can file a motion to suppress evidence illegally obtained.
Although Florida’s stop-and-frisk laws are constitutionally and statutorily based, the cases interpreting this law are many and complex.