The police are allowed to stop individuals to investigate crime. The police must have a reasonable suspicion that the person has committed, is committing, or is about to commit a crime. The police must have probable cause to arrest. If the Police do not have a reasonable suspicion or probable cause, the stop is illegal.
What Constitutes a Stop
Stopping a person who is standing, walking, riding a bike or driving a vehicle, constitutes a police-citizen encounter or police stop. There are three levels of encounters or stops.
There are essentially three levels of police-citizen encounters. The first level is considered a consensual encounter and involves only minimal police contact. During a consensual encounter a citizen may either voluntarily comply with a police officer’s requests or choose to ignore them and walk away. Because the citizen is free to leave during a consensual encounter, constitutional safeguards are not invoked.
The second level of police-citizen encounters involves an investigatory stop. At this level, a police officer may reasonably detain a citizen temporarily if the officer has a reasonable suspicion that the person has committed, is committing, or is about to commit a crime. In order not to violate a citizen’s Fourth Amendment rights, an investigatory stop requires a well-founded, articulable suspicion of criminal activity. Mere suspicion is not enough to support a stop.
The third level of police-citizen encounters involves an arrest which must be supported by probable cause that a crime has been or is being committed.
Illegal Stop and Detention
Where an officer stops and detains an individual, and the individual is not free to leave, this is not a consensual encounter. As a general rule, an encounter between a police officer and a citizen becomes an investigative stop when a citizen is not free to leave. If the officer does not have a reasonable suspicion that the citizen has committed, is committing, or is about to commit a crime, there is no well-founded suspicion of criminal activity. When a law enforcement officer detains a citizen, without a reasonable suspicion, or probable cause to arrest, the detention is an illegal show of authority which restricts the citizen’s freedom of movement. When an initial detention is illegal, all that flows from it is also illegal.
Suppressing Evidence Improperly Seized
Any evidence obtained as a result of an illegal detention or arrest must be suppressed pursuant to the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article I, Section 12 of the Florida Constitution. The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution states that the people have a right to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.
If you have been stopped and searched, you have a right to challenge the seizure of evidence obtained during the stop or after your arrest. You may be entitled to have any evidence seized as a result of that stop suppressed or tossed out, and the case dismissed.
You are entitled to a suppression hearing to determine whether the evidence was properly seized. In many cases, a law enforcement officer will improperly seize evidence after a warrantless arrest, without probable cause. At a suppression hearing, the State has the burden of establishing that the evidence was legally seized.
If the State cannot show that the evidence was lawfully seized, you may be entitled to suppression of the evidence and dismissal of the charges. Contact a criminal defense lawyer and request a suppression hearing. You should choose an attorney you can communicate with who will answer all of your questions. Hiring an attorney with knowledge and experience is essential to a successful outcome of your case.