Family Matters Law Group P.A.
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Criminal Law: What Are My Rights When Stopped by Police?

There are three types of "stops" that could occur, and your rights in Florida differ in each situation. It's important to recognize the differences among them so you know how to respond and avoid any additional criminal charges or evidence for the police.

The first type of stop is a "consensual encounter." You can recognize this when an officer engages you in casual conversation and asks you questions such as "What's going on over here" or "How are you doing today?" You do NOT have to answer any questions and you are NOT required to stay. As a matter of fact, you should continuously ask if you are free to leave. You are NOT required to show ID. The only way that they can legally search is if you CONSENT to the search (e.g., responding "no problem" to "mind if I have a look around?"), they see something in plain sight (e.g., baggie of weed on the seat), or they see something that looks like possibly a weapon.

The second type of stop can be referred to as an "investigatory stop" or "investigatory detention." The legal standard that needs to be proven is reasonable articulable suspicion. In other words, the police would have to prove that they had reasonable suspicion to detain and/or search you. You ARE legally required to remain on scene just long enough for them to investigate the situation (the length varies depending on the situation). You ARE legally required to provide them with identification. They can search you under the same two situations above in addition to a pat-down search.

The last type of encounter is an arrest. The legal standard that needs to be proven is probable cause OR if they have a warrant. You ARE legally required to show identification, you ARE subject to search, and you ARE under arrest. Therefore, YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO REMAIN SILENT and YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO AN ATTORNEY. You should be told these rights as soon as you are arrested. It's also important to note that "arrested" does not only mean you are handcuffed and booked into jail. For example, you could be issued a citation for misdemeanors such as driving offenses or a Notice to Appear on a Petit Theft. You are still "under arrest", you are just released on your own recognizance (ROR'ed).

If you are charged with a criminal offense, it is imperative that you (1) exercise your right to remain silent and (2) contact a criminal defense attorney to discuss your options. Contact us for a free consultation and speak to an experienced attorney that will fight for your rights.

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