When Police Can Search a Person With No Probable Cause and No Crime in Florida

Normally in Florida, the police can only search a person if he/she has committed a crime, the police have consent to search or the police have specific, reliable evidence that the person is in possession of evidence of a crime such as drugs or a gun. However, there are circumstances under the law when the police can search a person without any of those things.

In a recent possession of cocaine case near Jacksonville, Florida, the police came across a person who was exhibiting serious signs of mental instability, although he was not committing any crime. The law does allow the state to briefly detain a person, under what is commonly known as the Baker Act, for a brief period of time if the police believe the person will likely be a threat to himself or others in the near future. The Baker Act in Florida allows the police to secure the person and take him/her to a mental health facility. That is what occurred here. However, before the police transported him to the facility, they searched him for weapons. If was the police department’s policy to search anyone for weapons before being transported to a facility under the Baker Act. When the police searched the defendant in this case, they found cocaine and ultimately charged him with possession of cocaine.

The criminal defense lawyer argued that the evidence of the cocaine should be suppressed because the police did not have probable cause or consent to search the defendant. However, the court disagreed and found that the policy of searching a person during the Baker Act process was reasonable. Since the police found the cocaine during a reasonable search, they could use the cocaine against him.

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