If you are arrested in Florida, certain rights become available to you because of the arrest, such as the right to be advised of the charges against you, to remain silent, and the right to speak to an attorney.

It therefore becomes important to determine when you are under arrest. While a police officer is obligated to identify himself, advise you that you are under arrest and why, you may in fact be under arrest even though the officer has not actually told you so. Whenever your freedom of movement is restricted in any significant way you have been arrested.

However, if a police officer has a "reasonable suspicion" that you are engaged in criminal activity you may be temporarily detained for purposes of investigation without being arrested. You may be required to identify yourself and explain the reason for your presence at a particular location, but you can not be removed from the location without your consent unless you are arrested. If the police officer has grounds to believe that you are carrying a weapon, Florida Law authorizes a "pat-down" of your outer clothing.

Generally, private citizens do not have the power of arrest, although there are exceptions in special circumstances involving the commission of a felony. Retail businesses have the right to detain a suspected shoplifter for a reasonable time for questioning if they have probable cause to believe that you have stolen goods. A police officer may be called to the store during the detention for purposes of making an arrest.

If you are arrested, the police have the right to search your person and the immediate area where you are located. The law of search and seizure in Florida, as elsewhere, is very complicated, however, a search should never be forcibly resisted even if you think that it is illegal. If an illegal search is conducted, the Court will suppress the evidence, and it can not be introduced into evidence at trial or otherwise used against you.

Once arrested, Florida Law requires that you be brought before a Judge within 72 hours, and that criminal charges be filed against you in Court within 21 days.

Florida Law provides for full discovery, requiring the State Attorney to identify the names and addresses of witnesses to be used against you, to provide copies of any reports or statements of those witnesses, to identify any physical evidence to be used against you, to identify any confidential informants, wiretaps, video recordings, fingerprints, dna and all other evidence to be used against you. However, Florida's discovery rules are reciprocal and require the Defense to provide the same information to the State.

In addition, Defendants in felony cases in Florida have the right to take the depositions of witnesses.

Criminal trials in Florida are conducted before a Judge or, upon demand, a Jury of six persons, except in capital cases which require twelve jurors.

For additional information regarding Florida Law on specific criminal matters, you should contact an experienced Florida attorney.

© 1997 Mark Perlman