Laws for a Motorist Frisk When Stopped by Police in Florida

The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution expressly prohibits “unwarranted search and seizure” of any person or person’s belongings, and therefore, any search or seizure made without a warrant is considered unconstitutional and inadmissible in court.

If you’ve been stopped by the police in Florida, and that stop resulted in an arrest, speak with a Ft.Lauderdale criminal defense lawyer who may be able to help.


“Stop and Frisk” Without a Warrant

This practice is known more commonly as a “stop and frisk” and is performed by a number of police departments across the country as well as Florida as a means of searching for concealed weapons.

The Supreme Court case of Terry v.Ohio in 1968 determined that police may do a preliminary search for weapons if he or she has a reasonable suspicion that the person may be armed and dangerous.

The standard of “reasonable suspicion” sets the bar lower than “probable cause,” which is the burden of proof a police officer or law enforcement agent must meet in order to place someone under arrest for the violation of a crime.

When a motorist is pulled over in Florida, he or she may be frisked if the officer has reasonable suspicion that the person is armed or dangerous, and while safety is a pervasive item of concern for police officers, in some cases this frisk is a trick to search for other illegal items that may be secreted about your person.

A police officer may justify a “stop and frisk” if he or she has reasonable suspicion to believe that the person was connected to a crime:

  • that already occurred;
  • that was occurring recently; or
  • is about to occur.

The intensity of a stop and frisk can vary based on a number of considerations – one person may be stopped and questioned, while others may be subject to a full pat-down.

The long-standing debate over this practice is whether or not it effectively addresses the problem of prevalent crime without giving police departments excessive license to profile residential populations. Most recently, there have been allegations of racial profiling served by a “stop and frisk.”

Many argue that the “stop and frisk” tactic culminates in a breach of civil liberties, while others (mostly police departments) claim that this technique is an effective use of time and resources because it often turns up weapons and drugs.


What to Do if You’re Stopped by Police in Florida and Searched

Should you be stopped by a police officer in Florida, you should be fully cooperative and polite to make the process smoother for everyone involved. If you suspect that you may have been the victim of racial profiling and that is why you were stopped and searched, you may wish to contact your local American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) chapter.

However, those cases are complicated and difficult to pursue. Still, you may wish to acquire a copy of the report of your incident and seek Ft. Lauderdale criminal defense about the circumstances of your stop.

If you’ve been stopped by the police in Florida and were subsequently arrested, speak with a Ft. Lauderdale criminal defense attorney who will investigate the validity of the police stop that precipitated your arrest.