In drug cases in Florida, the police are not allowed to stop a person and investigate him/her for drugs or other illegal activity without probable cause to believe the person is committing a crime. The police can always approach a person and ask to talk to him/her and/or search him/her, but that person also has a right to refuse the police. Many times, a drug arrest is the result of a vehicle traffic stop where a police officer observes a person violate a traffic law, conducts a traffic stop and either gets consent to search the vehicle and finds drugs or allegedly develops probable cause and searches the vehicle, perhaps after smelling the odor of marijuana and having a drug dog alert to the vehicle.
Stopping pedestrians is more rare because the police do not normally have a traffic violation that can be used to initiate the encounter with the suspect. However, it can still happen that way. In a possession of cocaine case south of Jacksonville, Florida, a police officer observed the defendant walking down the middle of a street. He was not in danger and he was not bothering anyone but it is against the law for a pedestrian to walk in the middle of the street. This became a valid basis to stop the defendant. After the stop, the defendant agreed to let the police officer pat him down. Upon doing so, a pill bottle fell from his pants, they found crack cocaine inside and he was arrested for possession of cocaine.
The criminal defense lawyer tried to suppress the evidence of the drugs, but between the pedestrian violation, the consent to the pat down and the pill bottle falling to the ground, the state was able to proceed with the possession of crack cocaine charge. Had the defendant stayed on the sidewalk or refused consent to pat him down, it is unlikely he would have been arrested.