Criminal Defense, Legal Blog, Search and Seizure

Consensual Encounter – Consent to Search

An interesting case recently came out in the 2nd DCA regarding consensual encounters with police officers.

In the case, a police officer initiated a consensual encounter (or, an encounter with a person who is free to leave at any point) with an 18 year old high-schooler. The officer asked the student for his identification, which the student handed to the officer. The officer placed the student’s ID card and wallet on the hood of his patrol car. The officer then asked if the student would consent to a search as an “officer safety” method to ensure the student had no weapons, which the student permitted. The officer ultimately found four hydrocodone pills in the student’s pocket, for which the student had no prescription. the student was placed under arrest for possession of hydrocodone, a felony in the State of Florida.

The student filed a Motion to Suppress the evidence (the hydrocodone pills) found by the officer, arguing that the pills were found during an unlawful search. The student argued that the encounter with the police officer transformed from a “consensual encounter,” where he was free to leave, into an illegal detention, where he was no longer free to leave, when the officer placed the student’s ID and wallet on the hood of his patrol car. The motion to suppress was denied.

In denying the motion to suppress the evidence, the court reiterated the rule of law that police officers are not required to tell people that they are free to leave during a consensual encounter. However, the 2nd DCA reversed the ruling, and held that the evidence should have been suppressed because the student was clearly being detained and not free to leave when the officer held onto his ID and wallet. Therefore, when the student allegedly consented to the search, the student’s consent was not voluntary – he felt compelled to comply with the officer’s requests as a result of the improper detention. As a result, the evidence obtained as a result of the subsequent search was found to be unlawful. The 2nd DCA ruled that the student’s case should be dismissed.

Cases where law enforcement officers conduct searches are often wrought with Constitutional issues. This case (Lane v. State of Florida) is a perfect example. However, it is important to remember that just because evidence obtained as a result of an unlawful search may be suppressed, the case will not always necessarily be thrown out all together as a result. The outcome of each case will depend on the specific facts of that case.

Anyone who has been arrested as a result of a search by a police officer should contact a criminal defense attorney to discuss the particular facts of the case and review any potential constitutional violations.


Casey Reiter is an associate attorney at Stuart R. Manoff & Associates, P.A. in West Palm Beach, Florida, practicing in the areas of Criminal Defense and Marital Law.

Criminal Defense, Legal Blog

Talking to Police Officers

Growing up, children are taught that police officers are their friends. If a child needs assistance, he or she should feel comfortable asking a police officer for help. In cases involving young children, this suggestion is typically good advice. However, as children become young adults, the nature of police interaction becomes more dangerous. Unless reporting a crime committed against them, adults will typically learn that talking with the police will not be beneficial, and lawyers usually recommend against it. This is not to say that all police officers are inherently bad; there are certainly good police officers who are conscious that it is their job to serve and protect. However, when a person is being investigated for a crime, talking to a police officer will almost never help.

Whenever the police show up at someone’s home, it is not to deliver good news. Police officers rarely, if ever, go to someone’s home just to say hello and see how their day is going. Usually, if the police appear at someone’s house or call on the phone, it is because they suspect that person has committed a crime. Even when an officer walks up to a person on the street, it is usually not to have a pleasant conversation. Instead, the police are trying to have what is called a “consensual encounter” to try to get more information and, they hope, give them probable cause to make an arrest. At this point, a person does not have to talk to the police; it is within the person’s rights to politely decline the encounter and walk away.

However, if the police have moved beyond a consensual encounter and are now detaining that person, it is because the officers believe that have enough evidence to make an arrest. At this point, no communication with the officers will help; instead, it will only create more evidence against the detainee. It is very rare that a detained person will be able to talk his way out of an arrest. At the point of detention, officers are typically convinced that person has committed a crime and they will not believe a denial. Even the most eloquent and clever conversationalist can fall into this trap and inadvertently give police officers more “ammo” for whatever charges they plan on arresting the suspect for. As is often seen on TV, Miranda warnings include for a reason that “anything you say can and will be used against you.”

In the United States, people are supposed to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. Every case is different, but in the criminal justice world, the same rules should equally apply to the innocent and guilty. If you are being investigated for a crime,  you should contact a Florida criminal defense attorney regarding your specific case.  The hiring of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely upon advertisements.


Casey Reiter is an associate attorney at Stuart R. Manoff & Associates, P.A. in West Palm Beach, Florida, practicing in the areas of Criminal Defense and Marital Law.