As a criminal defense attorney in Fort Lauderdale, I have many friends who ask me, “What should I do if I am stopped by the police and/or arrested?” As such, I have listed a few things to remember if you are placed in this unfortunate and unfamiliar situation.
If you are stopped for a TRAFFIC-RELATED OFFENSE and you have drugs on your person, do not panic or make any furtive movements. In Florida, case law is clear that following a traffic stop, police officer are authorized to execute a pat-down for weapons only when they have a reasonable suspicion to believe a suspect is armed and dangerous. These searches are limited to weapons, not drugs. The Court will look at whether a reasonably prudent officer would be warranted to believe that his/her safety or the safety of others was in danger. One of the recognized circumstances in justifying a weapons pat-down is the suspect’s nervous or furtive movements. Therefore, never give an officer reason to believe his/her safety is in danger. Moreover, without pointing to another recognized exception (i.e. consent to search), an officer cannot reach into a suspect’s pocket after a pat-down search for weapons unless the officer can justify the seizure based on the “plain-feel doctrine.” At a minimum, the officer must be able to explain that, based on their experience, the items (drugs) contour and mass makes it’s identify as contraband immediately apparent, i.e. plain feel. For example, an officer would not be able to testify that one xanax pill in a suspect’s pocket was immediately apprant contraband, as a xanax pill feels like an innocuous “tic-tac.”As always, please remember that you have a right to remain silent or refuse to consent to search. In the event you are arrested as a result of an illegal search, an experienced criminal defense attorney will petition the Court to throw out the evidence by filing a Motion to Suppress.
If you are stopped for QUESTIONING, again stay calm. As mentioned above, do not
give the police a reason to arrest you. If the officer(s) question you during a “consensual” encounter (i.e. the police casually walk up to you on the street) you are free to terminate the encounter. As such, politely ask the officer if you are free to leave. If the officer says yes, walk away without incident. In the event the officer advises you that you are not free to terminate the encounter, you have a right to enquire for the reason of the detention. As always, you have the right to remain silent (although you must give your name if asked to identify yourself) or refuse to consent to a search. Do not be afraid to verbally advise the officer that wish to remain silent and not answer any questions without an attorney present.
If a police officer requests permission to enter your HOME, you do not have to grant them access. The police may not enter your home without a warrant. A home owner is entitled to the strictest Fourth Amendment protections from illegal entry, searches and seizures. Do not relinquish this protection. In the event you wish to speak with the officer(s), step outside your home and close the door. If the police claim they have a warrant, ask to inspect it. Remember, a warrant has restrictions on time, place, area, and items specifically listed in the warrant. The police cannot search items in places or areas not listed in the warrant. As always, even if the officer(s) have a warrant, you have a right to remain silent and refuse to answer questions without an attorney present.
If you are TAKEN INTO CUSTODY, do not resist the arrest. Resisting arrest (even without violence) is a criminal offense. The police will transport you to the county jail in the county of the arrest. The booking officer will ask for your personal information and take your photograph and fingerprints. The jail will check for any outstanding warrants or ICE holds. This process is commonly known as “booking.” Once booked, you will transported to a holding cell where you can begin the process of posting bond, if available. Notwithstanding certain charges and violations of probation, the jail will generally assign a bond amount for your release based on a bond schedule associated with the criminal charge. More significant charges typically attach higher bonds. You (or a friend) will have the option of posting a cash bond (typically at the jail) or a surety bond with a bondsman. Of note, some jails will have an ATM machine inside. A cash bond is paid in full and is refunded (minus court costs in some counties) upon the conclusion of the case, assuming the arrestee doesn’t violate any conditions of the bond (i.e. new charges). A surety bond is posted by a bondsman with a 10% premium to the bond company as their fee. For example, you would give a bondsman a non-refundable fee of $500.00 for them to post a $5000.00 bond. The bondsman will also ask for collateral to cover the bond in the event the arrestee violates any conditions of the bond. In most counties, please expect to remain in jail for 8-12 hours after booking. In the event the offense is a non-bondable offense, immediately contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to file a Motion to Set Bond (or Arthur Hearing Motion) with the Court.
In the event you have questions or doubt on how to proceed, especially with police questioning, stay calm and contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer for advice.