Frequently Asked Questions
What are your rights after your arrest?
You have a right to know the crime or crimes with which you have been charged. You have a right to know the identity of the police officers who are dealing with you. This is your right by Statute and by custom.
You have the right to communicate by telephone with your attorney, family, friends, or bondsperson as soon after you are brought into the police station as practicable. The police have a right to complete their booking procedures before you are allowed to use the telephone.
Can a Law Enforcement Officer detain you without arresting you?
If the officer has reasonable grounds to believe that you are armed, he or she may conduct a limited pat-down of your outer garments for the purpose of detecting weapons. If this “frisk” results in reasonable belief on the part of the officer that you are carrying a weapon, the officer may remove the suspicious object for protection. The officers must return to you any unlawful object found unless they place you under arrest. Unless the officer places you under arrest, the frisk or search must be limited to suspected weapons.
The officer may ask you some questions in order to complete the field interrogation card. You have a constitutional right to not answer them, or give your name, unless the officer has a reasonable suspicion that you are involved in a crime. At the conclusion of this temporary detention the officer must either arrest you or let you go.
If you should enter a retail establishment where goods are placed on display and for sale, the merchant or the employees may detain you on the premises for a reasonable time for questioning if they have probable cause to believe that you have stolen or have attempted to steal goods for sale. Under such circumstances police officers called to the scene may make an arrest for shoplifting even though the alleged offense was not committed in the officer’s presence. Under Florida law, there are few specified misdemeanors for which an arrest may be made without a warrant, even when not committed in the presence of the arresting officer. These exceptions to the general rule include, but are not limited to, domestic violence, shoplifting and carrying a concealed weapon other than a firearm.
The Officer never read me my rights. Can I get my case dismissed?
Of more consequence in most cases is the failure to advise you of the state’s “implied consent” law, that is, your legal obligation to take a chemical test and the results if you refuse. This can impact the suspension of your license.
Can an officer use force when making an arrest?
Resisting arrest with violence is a felony under Florida law. Resisting arrest without violence or offering to do violence is a misdemeanor. You could be convicted of either of these crimes, even if you were found not guilty of the crime for which you were arrested.
Obstructing an officer with violence is also a felony under Florida law. Obstructing or interfering with an officer on duty without violence is a misdemeanor. If you believe that your rights are being violated, make it a point to remember exactly what the police officer did and then advise your attorney concerning this at the earliest possible time.
What are the procedures usually followed when you are arrested?
1. You will be advised generally as to the charges against you. However, these charges may be changed later and stated in more detail by the office of the prosecuting attorney or in some instances by the grand jury.
2. You may be required to participate in a lineup, to prepare a sample of your penmanship, or to speak phrases associated with the crime with which you are charged, to put on certain wearing apparel or to give a sample of your hair. You should ask to have your attorney present during any of these procedures. You have an absolute right to counsel, if you are asked to participate in a lineup after you have been formally charged by the prosecuting attorney or indicted by a grand jury.
3. You also may be required to be fingerprinted and photographed.
4. You will be arraigned at a court session or your attorney will file a written plea on your behalf. An arraignment is no more than a plea of guilty, not guilty or no contest to the charge. If you plead not guilty, a trial date will be set. If you plead guilty or no contest, a sentencing date will be set, generally after the court has received a pre-sentence investigation report from probation and parole.
What happens to my personal property when I am arrested?
How are you released from jail?
If you are taken into custody and booked into the jail and remain there, you must be brought before the magistrate within 24 hours of your arrest. At that appearance, you may request that the magistrate lower your bail in consideration of your ties in the community, financial resources, employment record or any other factors, including your past criminal record and your past history of failure to appear in court when scheduled.
What is “drunk driving”?
Driving with a blood alcohol level over the state’s maximum permissible blood alcohol limit. The limit for adults is 0.08%.
You may also be guilty of DUI/DWI for driving when your physical abilities are impaired by drugs or a combination of drugs and alcohol. In the eyes of the law, it makes no difference whether the drug is legal or illegal, prescription, or over-the-counter. If taking that drug impacts your senses of seeing, hearing, talking, walking and/or judging distances, you may be guilty of a drunk driving offense.
What do police officers look for when searching for drunk drivers on the highways?
(1) Turning with a wide radius;
(2) Straddling center of lane marker;
(3) “Appearing to be drunk”;
(4) Almost striking object or vehicle;
(6) Driving on other than designated highway;
(8) Speed more than 10 mph below limit;
(9) Stopping without cause in traffic lane;
(10) Following too closely;
(12) Tires on center or lane marker;
(13) Braking erratically;
(14) Driving into opposing or crossing traffic;
(15) Signaling inconsistent with driving actions;
(16) Slow response to traffic signals;
(17) Stopping inappropriately;
(18) Turning abruptly or illegally;
(19) Accelerating or decelerating rapidly;
(20) Headlights off.
Speeding, incidentally, is not a symptom of DUI; in some circumstances it may suggest quicker reflexes and sobriety.
What is the officer looking for during the initial detention at the scene?
(1) gross observations of behavior in general;
(2) specific observations of balance tests and the like (usually called “field sobriety test”); and
(3) chemical test results of the motorist’s blood, breath or urine.
A police officer may arrest a motorist if the cumulative effect of the evidence convinces the officer that he has “probable cause” to make an arrest. This is a far lower standard than what the prosecutor must prove at trial. There the case must be proven “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Although this is a high standard, it is met every day in courts all over the country.
If I was stopped for another traffic violation, can the police also arrest me for a DUI or DWI?
Routine detentions for equipment and registration compliance, such as a cracked windshield, inoperative taillight, headlights not turned on, and so forth, maneuvering and parking violations, and many other reasons have been held by the courts to constitute sufficient cause. If the stop was the result of racial profiling, that may give a lawyer more to work with in an effort to have charges dismissed or reduced.
How long will a DUI Conviction stay on my criminal record?
I use drugs, but I have never sold them. The police arrested me with some cocaine and charged me with possession with intent to sell. Is that right?
I was arrested last night and charged with possession of a controlled substance because I had some of my prescription pills loose in the bottom of my purse. What should I do?
I got busted with a crack rock and the first time in court, the prosecutor offered to let me plead to the possession for probation. Should I take it?
My friend gave me a ride and the police pulled him over. They found some loose pills in the console that the officer said were oxycodone and they charged me along with him. Those were not my drugs. How can they do that?
I got stopped by a traffic cop for a busted tail light and then, without my permission he searched my car and found some marijuana in the trunk. At the hearing he said he knew I had drugs because he saw seeds on the floor and they were in “plain view”, but the drugs in the trunk weren’t. Can a lawyer get the drugs excluded from evidence?
I have heard the term “unwitting possession”. What does it mean and is it a valid defense?
guilty of possessing cocaine because they didn’t know (and had no way to know) that cocaine was in the package. The other classic case is borrowing someone’s car and the owner had cocaine stashed in the door frame. To be convicted in Florida, the prosecutor must prove that you knew of the contraband’s existence, and that you knew of its illicit nature.
The cops planted a rock of cocaine on me when they arrested my friend with his stash. The particular cop has a problem with me because I wouldn’t be a snitch for him. I used to use drugs, but I’ve been clean for two years. I know the judge will believe the cops and not me. What can I do?