Criminal defense lawyers in Jacksonville, and throughout the State of Florida, oftentimes find their jobs more difficult because their clients were in the dark about their rights and what to do during an encounter with police. Evidence that otherwise would not have been available against a client is used to hurt the client after consent was unnecessarily given to search a car, house, etc. I’ve found that the average person is often nervous when they come into contact with police officers, whether the person has done something wrong or not. Perhaps the most important thing to do is to stay calm so that you can think clearly.
The ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) provides general information that is very useful about the rights you should be aware of during police encounters– this information is critical and should be known by all U.S. Citizens and non-citizens alike, even if you’ve done absolutely nothing wrong. Click here for a downloadable and printable card that you can carry with you, just as you carry your I.D. card or insurance card, everywhere you go.
Florida Statute 901.151 authorizes law enforcement, when there is a reasonable belief that there is a crime taking place, has taken place, or about to take place, to temporarily detain a person to find out who the person is and what are the circumstances that caused the person to be present. An officer may perform a pat down of the person detained, if there is probable cause to believe that the person is armed with a dangerous weapon. Under this type of encounter, a person would not be free to leave. However, an officer can only detain a citizen for as long as it takes to look into any suspicious behavior.
After it is clear that there is no criminal activity involved, law enforcement cannot hold a person without the person’s consent. However, even if you are held beyond the time it takes to look into the suspicious activity, you are not legally justified to offer physical resistance to a law enforcement officer. There are some circumstances that may justify physical resistance, such as if an officer were to use excessive force against you. Detaining you longer than you would like to be detained certainly would not qualify as excessive force. Often, clients that would have been left to get back to whatever it was that the officer interrupted will end up being arrested after disobeying lawful commands in situations where the officer had a valid reason the temporarily stop the person.
Following the ACLU’s advice and asking if you are free to leave is a good idea, as is maintaining a calm and polite demeanor. You are never required to consent to a search, since if an officer has a right to search you or your car, your consent is not needed. The better practice is to keep your consent to yourself, but offering physical resistance if you think you should not be searched is a mistake. Any fighting with police should be by your attorney in court. Fighting with police leads to the very serious charges of Battery on a Law Enforcement Officer and Resisting with Violence, which are two separate crimes, but are often charged together and can stem from the same conduct.
Navigating through the complex minefield of Florida law can be intimidating. If you or a loved one has recently had an encounter with police in Jacksonville or the surround counties, call the Law Office of David M. Goldman PLLC at (904) 685-1200 to speak with a lawyer in Jacksonville. Consultations are free.