Florida Burglary Unoccupied Dwelling

A Florida man made news today after the Sarasota County Sheriff’s office posted of a picture of the man sleeping on a bed in the home he was allegedly attempting to burglarize in Nokomis, Florida. The man was reportedly found with a bag of jewelry on the bed next to him. The would-be burglar is facing charges of burglary of an unoccupied dwelling.

Although the Sheriff’s Office (and people around the country at this point) are having a good laugh at the “burglar’s” expense, burglary is a serious crime in the State of Florida that is heavily prosecuted by the State Attorney’s Office. Burglary of an unoccupied dwelling is a Second Degree Felony in the State of Florida, punishable by up to 15 years in Florida State Prison and a $10,000.00 fine.

Anyone who is arrested for Burglary of an Unoccupied Dwelling in Florida should speak with a Florida criminal defense attorney to discuss their options and determine the best defensive strategy – regardless of the circumstances of the arrest.

 

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.

Invoking Rights During Questioning

An interesting case from the 1st DCA was published this week and it provides a good discussion relative to my recent blog “Miranda Warnings – Infographic,” 

In the case of State of Florida v. Parker, the 1st DCA revisited the important issue of constitutional rights during an interrogation of a suspect. In that case, the suspect was being questioned by police in connection with a burglary with battery charge (in addition to other charges). Burglary-battery, or “burg-batt,” is a first degree felony in the State of Florida, punishable by up to life in prison, and found under Florida Statute 810.02.

During the questioning, the following questions and answers (at issue) allegedly took place:

Suspect: “Can you just tell me if I need to get a lawyer or something?”

Officer: “Listen, that’s your right. But what I’m interested in is the truth.”

At this point, the suspect allegedly made incriminating statements. 

 

Suspect “Is there a lawyer in the building?”

Officer: “No, you would have to call one.”

The suspect was ultimately placed under arrest. During his case, the suspect (now defendant) filed a motion to suppress his incriminating statements, arguing that the police officer had violated his constitutional rights by not giving him a straightforward answer. The law regarding this issue requires police officers to stop the interview when a suspect asks a question concerning his or her rights, and make a good-faith effort to give a simple and straightforward answer. Once the officer answers the question, appropriately, the officer can continue the interview unless the suspect invokes his her her rights (such as his or her right to remain silent and right to counsel). However, Florida courts have held that when an officer gives an evasive answer, skips the question, or talks over the suspect, the officer has violated Florida’s Constitution and the US Constitution, and any incriminating statements obtained as a result of the constitutional violations may be suppressed as coerced.

 

In this case, the Court found that the officer had in fact made a good-faith effort to appropriately answer the suspects questions regarding his rights. As a result, the incriminating statements the suspect made about himself were admissible in trial.

Interestingly, the Court also mentioned in its ruling that the suspect’s question about “whether there was a lawyer in the building” was not an unequivocal invocation of his right to an attorney. That is an example of why it is extremely important for anyone being questioned by police to know his or her rights so that he or she can properly invoke them if he/she chooses to do so. Many people do not know their rights or the steps they have to take to invoke them. An unclear question regarding a suspect’s rights will not be sufficient to invoke them. A person who wants to stop the interrogation to speak with a lawyer has to clearly make the request. Anyone who has questions regarding their rights during a police interrogation should contact a criminal defense attorney.

 

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.

 

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.