Florida’s “Plain Feel” Doctrine

As Jacksonville Criminal Attorneys, we are often asked, when can a police officer search someone’s body, also known as a “pat down”. If the police officer has reasonable suspicion that you are committing, just committed, or going to commit a crime in Jacksonville, he can most likely detain you. Once you are detained, not free to leave, the officer can search you for officer safety.

If the police officer pats you down and feels what resembles contraband, such as a gun or a bag of drugs, the officer can then reach in your pocket and pull the item out. If the officer does not immediately recognize the item in your pocket, he cannot extract the item to “discover” what it is. In Florida, this is called the “plain feel” doctrine and it addresses the ability of the police to take non-threatening items detected during a search.