A Stop Based on a Well Founded Articulable Suspicion of Criminal Activity Does Not Violate a Citizen’s Right

While mere suspicion is insufficient to support an investigatory stop, a stop will not violate a citizen's rights where it is based on "a well-founded, articulable suspicion of criminal activity." Id. (citing Carter v. State, 454 So. 2d 739 (Fla. 2d DCA 1984)).

The third level of police-citizen encounter is an arrest, which requires probable cause on the part of the officer that a crime has been, is being, or is about to be committed. See id. (citing Henry v. United States, 361 U.S. 98, 80 S. Ct. 168, 4 L. Ed. 2d 134 (1959); § 901.15, Fla. Stat. (1991)).

In Berkemer v. McCarty, 468 U.S. 420, 104 S. Ct. 3138, 82 L. Ed. 2d 317 (1984), the United States Supreme Court explained the permitted scope of such an encounter:

Under the Fourth Amendment, we have held, a policeman who lacks probable cause but whose "observations lead him reasonably to suspect" that a particular person has committed, is committing, or is about to commit a crime, may detain that person briefly in order to "investigate the circumstances that provoke suspicion."

"The stop and inquiry must be 'reasonably related in scope to the justification for their initiation.'"

Typically, this means that the officer may ask the detainee a moderate number of questions to determine his identity and to try to obtain information confirming or dispelling the officer's suspicions.

But the detainee is not obliged to respond.

And, unless the detainee's answers provide the officer with probable cause to arrest him, he must then be released. Id. at 439-40 (quoting Brignoni-Ponce, 422 U.S. at 881).