In the state of Florida, the criminal offense of loitering or prowling is a broadly defined crime that has a purpose to protect people and property from those with ill intent, like a burglar or stalker. Unfortunately, this charge is frequently used by police who only have a suspicion that an individual might be committing a crime without actual evidence. This situation often leads to charges against citizens practicing their right to be lawfully present. An Orlando loitering and prowling lawyer could provide legal assistance.
Florida Statutes 856.021 and 856.022 are highly subjective statutes that make loitering or prowling in specific manners illegal during certain hours and locations in the state. For an officer to charge you with this crime, they must have legitimate circumstances to suspect you of criminality. Simply acting suspiciously is not grounds enough to arrest you for violating this law.
For a conviction to occur, state prosecutors must show that your presence was unreasonable and out of the norm compared to other lawful citizens. They must also demonstrate that the circumstances surrounding your charges showed justifiable concern for the safety of others or property. Accusations of burglary, vandalism, or drug dealing are frequent reasons behind officer suspicion.
Florida law does specify under what circumstances law enforcement may charge someone with loitering and prowling out of concern for public safety or the condition of a property:
Unless you cannot explain your presence or you flee the scene, officers must allow you an opportunity to dispel any concerns about your conduct. It is not lawful for you to be arrested for loitering or prowling without them giving you that opportunity. If your explanation is truthful and acceptable, yet you get arrested for this crime anyway, the court should not convict you when presented with this evidence.
In these situations, having an experienced criminal defense attorney is critical in protecting your right to present your side of the story and hold the officer accountable for their blatant disregard of the law.
When law enforcement officials opt to ignore your explanation for being lawfully present or arrest you on suspicion alone, you will need your lawyer to examine the circumstances of your case to create a solid defense.
Numerous criminal defense strategies may successfully acquit you or lead to a dismissal of the charges. Below are the most commonly used defenses against loitering and prowling charges in Florida:
You Pose No Threat
You were not committing any actions that were criminal, threatening, or which breached the peace and should not be facing charges.
Police Were Not Present
Law enforcement did not witness any of your conduct that would justify loitering and prowling charges. Or, police arrested you based on second-hand reports. State law requires police to see first-hand your activity that warranted an arrest for this crime.
Being Idle Is Not a Crime
Standing around, even in the middle of the night on a street corner, is not illegal. Your mere idling presence is not grounds for the police to demand an explanation, suspect you of crimes, or arrest you for loitering and prowling.
Justification After the Fact
You cannot be detained without cause or charged with loitering and prowling after being held for a different reason. State prosecutors are also not permitted to charge you with loitering and prowling if it is later discovered you had intended to commit a crime.
There are numerous ways to successfully defend against loitering and prowling charges in Florida. A skilled criminal defense attorney can carefully evaluate your case and devise a strategy that best suits the circumstances.
While not as severe as a first-degree misdemeanor or felony charge, loitering or prowling is a second-degree misdemeanor. This does not mean it will have less of an impact on your record and life, and you should take the consequences seriously.
Possible penalties under Florida law include:
A two-month jail sentence could mean losing your home, your job, hurting your reputation in your community, and more. If you are facing loitering and prowling charges in Orlando, you should take immediate steps to defend yourself by contacting a criminal defense lawyer.
If you or a loved one has recently received a loitering and prowling charge in Central Florida, you must speak with an experienced Orlando loitering and prowling lawyer immediately. These charges are frequently based on unjustified suspicions, and our lawyers can help you get these charges thrown out of court so you can return to your life.
We at The Umansky Law Firm bring demonstrated experience and success with our over 100 years of combined experience working for your case. You deserve a reputable attorney for your case that will not give up until the best possible situation for your case is achieved. Our team of legal professionals has experience as former Florida state prosecutors, so you can be sure your future and rights are in good hands. Give us a call us today or contact us online to learn more about receiving a free consultation.
The Umansky Law Firm Criminal Defense & Injury Attorneys