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When Does the Seizure of a Person Occur?  

The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and Article 1, Section 12 of the Florida Constitution both provide protection against unreasonable warrantless searches and seizures. This includes the seizure, or arrest, of a person. Depending on the circumstances, there are different standards law enforcement must meet in order to comply with the constitutional mandates.

There may be times when police officers claim a person was not under arrest, so not seized, but the circumstances surrounding the detention indicate the person was not free to leave. What are some circumstances that indicate a person was “seized” in violation of the constitutional protections?

Some Questionable Seizures of the Person

  • Temporary detention:Florida law allows an officer to temporarily detain a person who the officer encounters when the “circumstances reasonably indicate the person” is committing, has committed or is about to commit a criminal offense or violate a municipal ordinance. The detention must be brief and the officer is only allowed to ask the person for his or her identity and the reason the person is in that particular location. This is a controversial approach and a Federal judge has declared a similar provision under New York law to be an unconstitutional seizure of a person.
  • Detained at a traffic stop:At a traffic stop, law enforcement has been known to detain a person longer than necessary and engage in questioning. If this happens to you, ask “am I free to go?” If the answer is, “yes,” then leave. If the answer is not “yes,” you have been seized and your constitutional rights may have been violated.
  • Extensively questioned about a criminal offense:Law enforcement are skilled at lengthy questioning of an individual, and claim the person was not seized so there was no need to provide the person with the recitation of their Miranda rights. If you are detained for questioning, ask if you are free to go. If the answer is ambiguous or no, you have been seized and are in police custody.

If you were detained by law enforcement for any reason, and subsequently arrested and charged with a criminal offense, you need the help of an aggressive and skilled Jacksonville criminal defense lawyer. Contact the Law Office of James Davis, P.A. as soon as possible. Do not speak to anyone about your situation until you talk first to your attorney.