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Fort Lauderdale, FL 33315
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Three Types of Encounters with Police and How They Affect Your Rights


You probably have concerns any time you are stopped or approached by police, but you may not realize that there are different types of encounters with law enforcement that affect your rights. The specifics are grounded in the Bill of Rights to the US Constitution, which are mirrored in the Florida Declaration of Rights:

  • The Fourth Amendment protection against unlawful search and seizure by police; and,
  • The Fifth Amendment prohibition on officers forcing you to be a witness against yourself, i.e., self-incrimination.

There are three different encounters with police that may raise concerns about these constitutional protections, which in turn can impact your case if you are facing charges. You should trust a Fort Lauderdale criminal lawyer to represent you in connection with the extremely complicated concepts, but the levels are:

  1. Consensual Encounters: The lowest level of interaction with police involves minimal contact, no seizure, and a limited search. A consensual encounter focuses on whether you feel free to leave at any time, or if the officer restricts you or hinders your ability to depart. Under these circumstances, it is usually NOT a violation of your rights if police request that you show identification or answer a few basic questions.

A reasonableness standard applies to whether or not you feel that your freedom has been restricted; in other words, if someone else in your position would believe that his or her movement was restricted, the encounter is no longer consensual in nature.

  1. Investigatory Stop and Detention: Up one level is the investigative encounter, where police detain you temporarily as they are gathering evidence regarding a crime. Officers are typically justified in stopping you for a brief investigation if they have a well-founded, reasonable suspicion that you:
  • Committed a crime;
  • Are currently involved in criminal activity; or,
  • Are preparing to commit an offense.

The investigative detention comes up often when police are provided with a physical description of someone engaged in criminal activity, and they search the surrounding area for the suspect. The stop is only justified if the descriptive information is specific and corroborated by credible details.

Arrest and Taken into Custody: The highest level of police encounter is being arrested and taken to the station for official booking into jail. Officers must have probable cause that you were, are, or will be engaged in criminal activity. Factors related to probable cause include the facts and circumstances within the officer’s knowledge, and whether the information was reliable. Besides stating that you are under arrest and/or reading your Miranda rights, a law enforcement officer may detain you by physical force or asserting authority.

Discuss Your Case with a Florida Criminal Defense Lawyer

If you are facing charges after a consensual, investigatory, or arrest detention by police, you may have a solid defense where your rights were violated during the encounter. Any evidence seized after an unlawful search may be tossed out of court, and even incriminating statements could be considered inadmissible. To learn more about your defense options, please contact attorney Kevin J. Kulik to schedule a confidential consultation at our Fort Lauderdale office.


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