Pat Down Searches in Florida

Before a person can be detained (i.e., an investigatory stop), an officer must have reasonable suspicion that criminal activity is afoot. Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968). But what can an officer do once he has you detained? Well, that depends on the circumstances. They can do a pat down search for weapons if they have reasonable suspicion that the person is armed with a dangerous weapon. They can remove items that reasonably could be a weapon, but nothing else. Police cannot develop probable cause to make an arrest when, during a Terry stop pat-down search, they feel an object they believe to be contraband.

Courts have also held that furtive movements or evasive behavior can be considered in determining whether there is a reasonable belief that someone is armed and dangerous. Brown v. State, 863 So.2d 459 (Fla. 5th DCA 2006).

Florida’s stop and frisk law allows an officer to detain a person temporarily to ascertain the person’s identity and the circumstances of the presence when there are reasonable indications that such a person has committed, is about to commit, or is committing a crime. Sutton v. State, 698 So.2d 1321 (Fla. 2nd DCA 1997).


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