LEGAL GUIDE
Written by attorney Sabarish P Neelakanta | May 6, 2011

Florida's Stop and Frisk Statute

Detention as authorized by Florida’s Stop and Frisk Statute § 901.151 is limited and is not the same as an arrest. Section 901.151 provides that an officer is entitled to temporarily detain an individual only when the officer has a “founded suspicion" that an individual is engaging in illegal activity. In order to justify a temporary detention, a police officer must have a “founded suspicion" that the person has committed, is committing or is about to commit a crime. Fla. Stat., § 90l.l5l (l989); Popple v. State, 626 So.2d 185 (Fla. 1993); Kearse v. State, 384 So.2d 272 (Fla. 4th DCA, l980). A “founded suspicion" for purposes of the stop and frisk law is a suspicion which has some factual foundation in the circumstances observed by the officer, when those circumstances are interpreted in the light of the officer's knowledge. State v. Stevens, 354 So.2d l244 (Fla. 4th DCA l978). A “bare" suspicion that the person has committed, is committing or is about to commit a crime cannot support a temporary detention. Mullins v. State, 366 So.2d ll62 (Fla. 4th DCA, l979); Kearse; Stevens; R.B. v. State, 429 So.2d 8l5 (Fla. 2nd DCA l983). Rather, the suspicion “must be enough to draw the officer’s attention to something more specific than a wide, unparticularized range of potential suspects." Brandlin v. State, 669 So.2d 280, 282 (Fla. 1st DCA 1996). The police officer’s suspicion must be based on observed facts interpreted in light of the officer’s knowledge, training and practical experience. Taylor v. State, 384 So.2d 1310 (Fla. 2nd DCA 1980). A “mere" suspicion lacks sufficient objective justification and thus is akin to random selection, mere guesswork, or a hunch. Stevens, 354 So.2d at l244. Because a mere suspicion cannot support a valid detention, an officer cannot lawfully infringe upon a citizen’s Fourth Amendment interests solely upon a “hunch" sparked by his professional experience. Carter v. State, 454 So.2d 739 (Fla. 2nd DCA 1984).

Moreover, as discussed in Cobb v. State, 511 So.2d 698, 699-700 (Fla. 3d DCA 1987), the fact that the location where an individual is stopped is known for high crime or drug activity does not make Fourth Amendment protections less worthy. “It is, indeed, a pernicious proposition that it is easier to justify the investigatory stop of people who are situated in high crime areas than those who are not. The fact that an area has had the misfortune of being the site of greater than ordinary criminal activity does not, in our view, justify the diminution, however slight, of the constitutional rights of people in that area." Id.

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