Understanding Criminal Procedure and Getting Arrested in Florida

Police and Procedures for Arrest in Florida

During an arrest, police officers detain a person because they are suspected of committing a crime. Arresting someone is a serious matter that involves depriving a person of their freedom. For this reason, police are required to follow certain procedures when performing an arrest. 

The specific procedural requirements for an arrest vary between states. Individual police departments also often have additional arrest procedures. 

It is often assumed that police must put a person in handcuffs or into a police vehicle to arrest them, however, this is not always the case. Police may choose to do so depending on the circumstances, but they are not legally required to handcuff or physically detain someone to effect an arrest. 

Police are also not legally required to read someone their Miranda rights (“you have the right to remain silent, anything you do say…”) at the time of their arrest. These rights must be explained before police can interrogate someone. In practice however, police often read a person their Miranda rights at the time of their arrest.  

When Can an Officer Make an Arrest in Florida

A police officer can't arrest someone just because “they look suspicious” or the police officer “has a hunch” about something. 

A police officer can arrest someone when they:

  • Have an arrest warrant issued by a judge
  • See someone commit a crime
  • Have probable cause to believe someone committed or is about to commit a crime

Probable cause means that actual information exists leading the police officer to believe the person has committed, or is about to commit a crime. In other words, the police officer holds more than mere suspicion, but not enough to establish beyond a reasonable doubt, that the person committed or will soon commit a crime. 

Excessive Force in Florida

The issue of excessive force often arises in the context of an arrest. Under the Fourth and Eighth amendments of the Constitution, police must only use the minimum force reasonably necessary to effect an arrest. They cannot use excessive force. 

When reviewing whether the force used was reasonable, a court will consider factors including, but not limited to:

  • The seriousness of the crime the person was suspected of committing
  • Whether the suspect was a threat
  • Whether the suspect attempted to escape arrest

If excessive force is used during an arrest, the suspect may have a basis for a civil case against the officer for violating their Constitutional rights. A person subject to excessive force can also file a formal complaint with the relevant police department, which may consider disciplinary action, or with the Department of Justice which may consider criminal charges depending on the circumstances and results of any investigation. 

Why You Need a Criminal Defense Lawyer if Arrested in Florida

If you are arrested by police, you should immediately ask to speak to a criminal defense lawyer. You have the right to do so and they are best placed to advise you of the law, and the options available to you. 

An attorney can also later review your arrest for any issues of excessive force or unlawful arrest, and assist you with preparing any related motions for your defense. 

Florida's Law Enforcement and Arrest Procedures

When a person is detained and in police custody, it is typically because the arresting officer has reasonable grounds to suspect that the person committed a crime. When someone is arrested, they have their freedom of movement taken away from them, which is a severe concern in and of itself. Because of this, the law enforcement officer who made the arrest must adhere to specific protocols.

It is a common misconception that in order for the police to make an arrest, the suspect must first be placed in handcuffs and then transported to the station in a police vehicle. Handcuffing or physically detaining a suspect to make an arrest is not required under the law. However, the police may do so, depending on the circumstances.

At the time of an individual's arrest, the police are not legally compelled to read them their Miranda rights, which include the statements "you have the right to stay silent, anything you say can be used against you in the court of law". Before the police can question someone, they must clarify these rights to them. Most times however, Miranda rights are typically read aloud to the person at the same time of the arrest.

When Does an Officer Have the Authority to Make an Arrest in Florida?

The phrase "they appear suspect" or the saying "the police officer has a feeling about something" are not sufficient grounds for a police officer to make an arrest.

When can a police officer may make an arrest?

  • When the court issues an arrest warrant for your arrest.
  • See someone commit a crime.
  • The law enforcements has reasonable grounds to suspect someone has committed a crime or is likely to do so.

When police officers have probable cause, it indicates that they have access to genuine facts that lead them to believe a person has committed a crime, or is likely to commit a crime. To put it another way, the officer has more evidence than a simple suspicion. Still, it is not sufficient to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the person has already committed a crime or will do so in the near future.

Abuse of Force in the State of Florida

In the context of an arrest, the question of using excessive force frequently arises. To comply with the requirements of the Fourth and Eighth Amendments of the Constitution, law enforcement officers are only allowed to use the force that is considered the absolute minimum necessary to effectuate an arrest. They are not allowed to employ an excessive amount of force.

A court will take into consideration the following elements while determining whether or not the amount of force that was used was appropriate:

  • The nature and degree of the offense for which the individual was accused of being responsible
  • Whether or not the suspect posed a danger.
  • Whether or not the culprit attempted to evade capture.

If an officer uses excessive or disproportionate force to arrest someone, the suspect may have grounds for a legal complaint against the officer. A person who has been the victim of excessive force can file a formal complaint with the relevant police department, which may consider disciplinary action, or the Department of Justice, which may consider criminal charges depending on the circumstances and the results of any investigation. Both options are available to the person who has been the victim of excessive force.

Why You Should Get a Criminal Defense Lawyer in Florida if You've Been Arrested

If the police decide to place you under arrest, your priority should be to request to speak with a criminal defense attorney. You are well within your rights to do so, and they are in position to counsel you regarding the law and the choices that are available to you.

A lawyer can investigate your arrest to determine whether or not an unlawful arrest or excessive force was used. They can also help you prepare any appropriate motions with the court to support your innocence. You don't have to go through this ordeal by yourself. Call us today to schedule a free consultation with one of our criminal defense attorneys.

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