By Leonard Villafranco
If you are arrested in Florida, the decision to answer any questions is entirely yours. Give this matter serious attention because any oral or written statements will be used as evidence in court. If you are offered, coerced or forced to sign anything, advise your attorney or the senior police official in charge immediately. If you do not have an attorney, you can ask to see one immediately before giving up your right to remain silent.
You can ask to speak with the public defender immediately if you are unable to afford an attorney. The public defender is an attorney and is available to give you important legal advice following your arrest. When you are arrested, law enforcement officers will take you into custody or deprive you of your freedom of movement in order to hold you to answer for the criminal offense. Under Florida law, police officers are required to identify themselves and advise you that you are under arrest and why unless certain circumstances make it impossible for them to do so.
Based upon reasonable suspicion, a police officer may require you to identify yourself and explain your presence without actually arresting you. Under Florida law, a police officer may not remove you from the immediate vicinity without actually arresting you unless you voluntarily accompany the officer to some other location.
If the officer has reasonable grounds to believe that you are armed, he or she may conduct a limited pat-down of your garments for the purpose of detecting weapons, which may be removed for protection. Unless arrested, the frisk is limited to suspected weapons.
Law enforcement officers may ask you questions. However, you have a constitutional right not to answer them or even give your name, unless there is an articulate suspicion that you were involved in a crime. At the conclusion of the temporary detention, police officers must either arrest you or release you.
A police officer may arrest you at any time if they have an arrest warrant or if they know that a warrant exists. An arrest warrant is issued by a court charging that you committed a particular crime and directing law enforcement officers to arrest you and bring you before the court. You may require officers to read you the warrant after you are arrested. An arrest warrant should never be confused with a search warrant.
If you would like to speak to an attorney about this, or any other legal issue, you can contact Villafranco & Garcia, PLLC. at (772) 288-7338 or (772) 871-6441.
This column is an overview of the subject matter and is not intended as legal advice. Villafranco & Garcia, PLLC. are attorney’s practicing law Stuart, FL in Port St. Lucie, FL.