Police Interaction FAQ

Can police search without a warrant in Florida?

Law enforcement can conduct a search without a warrant under certain circumstances. For example, if a law enforcement officer is responding to a service call, comes to your door, and in knocking on your door when you open it, they see a bong sitting on your coffee table, that’s considered the Plain View Doctrine, which allows them to then have a basis to search based on what they’ve seen in their plain view. Same thing holds true for marijuana. If they smell the odor of marijuana whether it’s burnt or otherwise, they’d also have a basis to search. Similar facts and circumstances can apply to your car, and even to you, individually, if you’re on the side of the road walking. There are situations where a search can be conducted without a warrant. For more information, speak to your attorney to better understand your case.

Can the police stop me and search me for no reason in Florida?

No. Law enforcement can’t just stop and search you for no reason, but there is something called the Stop and Frisk Law. For example, if law enforcement believes they have reasonable suspicion that a crime has been committed, is being committed, or is about to be committed, they have the ability under reasonable suspicion to stop you to determine what that suspicion is. In the course of speaking with you, it’s possible that you might be patted down. Often times law enforcement uses the excuse of office safety to pat you down saying that they want to make sure you’re not armed with any type of knives or guns. In the course of searching, might something. If that’s the case, you may want to speak to your lawyer about whether you can get the evidence thrown out.

Do I have to give consent to have my vehicle searched?

In Florida, you don’t have an obligation to give consent, so if an officer asks you to search, you have the right to say no. That being said, the officer may have a basis to search your car even without your consent. For example, if an officer comes up to your vehicle and in the course of looking in to speak with you, sees that there’s marijuana in the center console, that gives him the ability to search under what’s called the Plain View Doctrine. So there are different circumstances where an officer, even without your consent, may be able to search your car. If you have a situation where your case arose out of that type of scenario and you wanted more information, consult with an attorney about your rights.

Do police need a warrant to arrest me?

No, in Florida, the police don’t have to have a warrant to arrest you. Certainly, they can arrest you with a warrant, but if they observe you committing an offense or they have probable cause to believe that you committed that offense, they can arrest you without a warrant. DUIs are a perfect example of this, domestic violence batteries or simple batteries, the list goes on and on. If they’ve observed anything that causes them to believe that they have probable cause, they can arrest you without a warrant. Again, it depends on the circumstances. In felony cases, there is going to be a warrant requirement typically, unless they have observed the felony and have the basis to make the arrest without that warrant.

If a police officer stopped me and asked me questions, should I answer them?

Not to sound too much like a lawyer, but it depends. If the police stop you and ask you questions, and they’re asking you questions about criminal conduct, you may have a right to remain silent and invoke your right to have an attorney. It really depends on the circumstances and what they’re asking you.
The problem is, law enforcement can try to be cute, they can try to be tricky. They may ask you a question that you don’t even understand the consequences of answering, so the best thing you can do is be cooperative, be polite, but unless it’s biographical information or information that relates to something that is noncriminal, you really should consider speaking with a lawyer and letting that officer know that you’d like to speak with an attorney before answering any more questions.

Is refusing to let the police search me an admission of guilt?

Absolutely not. Refusing a request to be searched is your constitutional right. It has no admissible quality to it. They can’t claim in court that you refused the admission because you knew you had something on your or that you knew that they’d find something so, no, refusing an officer’s request to search you is your constitutional right. Now, that being said, they may search you under some other premise. If the search is unlawful, you can challenge it, but refusing the law enforcement’s request is certainly within your right.

The police want to talk to me about a crime they think I committed, should I comply?

No, if you’re under investigation for a crime, the worst thing you can do is speak to law enforcement without legal representation. Once the cat’s out of the bag, we can’t put it back in. The best thing to do is consult with a lawyer, find out whether the lawyer advises that you have that conversation or not, and if so, under what circumstances. It is very rare that we would ever advise a client to speak with law enforcement, even with an attorney, but that decision needs to be made fully informed, meaning you need to speak with your lawyer, understand what the consequences are not only of the charge that they’re investigating you for, but of speaking or not speaking, and then make a decision as to whether or not you’re in a good position to speak with law enforcement. Many times we want our clients to speak with law enforcement only if there’s an agreement with the prosecutor, and oftentimes when law enforcement is asking you to speak with them, a prosecutor’s not even involved in the investigation yet. The best thing you can do is invoke your right and speak with an attorney.

What if the office says they will go easy on me if I cooperate

Law enforcement doesn’t really have the ability to promise to go easy on you. That’s really just lip service. The only person that can make that type of assurance is the prosecuting authority. If you’re interested in cooperating with law enforcement, the critical thing for you to understand is that you need to have the agreement of the prosecuting authority, be it the state attorney’s office, the statewide prosecutor’s office, or the assistant US attorney handling a case in federal court. Which really means that what you need to do is make a determination. If you’re going to cooperate, you need to cooperate through your lawyer, so your lawyer can make sure that the prosecuting authority is on the same page, that you understand what the rules of engagement are, and that you know what the benefit is going to be for your cooperation. Don’t just simply talk to a law enforcement officer, because that’s not how it works.

What if the search and seizure is not legal?

If law enforcement’s search and seizure is not legal, then you have the right to challenge it in court through what’s called a motion to suppress. A motion to suppress is a motion heard before the court where the judge will decide whether or not to throw the evidence out that may have been obtained unlawfully or illegally as a result of police misconduct. The best thing to do is review your case with an attorney, assess and evaluate what your options are as it relates to that motion and determine whether that’s in your best interest to file that motion. In the event that the motion is granted and the evidence is thrown out, it may be that the case also gets thrown out depending on what other evidence exist. In the case of an unlawful or illegal search, consider filing a motion to suppress but certainly consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney.

What rights do I have in Florida when a law enforcement officer asks me questions

If a law enforcement officer begins asking you questions, it’s important to know what the context is. In other words, where are you and what are the circumstances that the questions are being posed and what are the nature of the questions. If you’re being asked for identification, you’re obligated to identify yourself. A failure to do so may result in your arrest for resisting an officer. Beyond that though, if you’re being questioned about criminal conduct, it’s always our advice that you invoke your right to an attorney, ask that you not be asked any more questions, and cease that conversation. If it’s a basic question about who you are and where you live, you need to answer those questions. Anything beyond that though, you might want to consider consulting with a lawyer before you do anything that might jeopardize your rights.

When do the police have to read me my rights in Florida

Miranda warnings, or reading you your rights, are something that we talk about almost on a daily basis with potential clients. There’s this misconception that if you’re arrested you have to be read your rights. It’s simply not true. Your Miranda warnings are designed to do one thing, and that’s to tell you that if you open your mouth and say something, it can be used against you in court. It’s that simple. If you are in a situation where law enforcement has detained you, or arrested you, and they’re asking you questions that elicit something that is negative in your case … You make a statement, admission, something of that sort, it can come into court if you’ve been Mirandized. But if you haven’t been read your rights, your statement against your own interest isn’t admissible. No, you don’t have to be read your rights to be arrested.

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