Loitering and Prowling
The offense of loitering and prowling in Florida occurs when an individual maintains a suspicious presence in an unusual place, time, or manner; and under circumstances that point toward the possibility of a threat to the safety of property or persons. Penalties under state law include jail time and permanent criminal record.
Under Florida Statutes, an individual is deemed to “loiter and prowl” in a place, in a manner, and at a time that is unusual for law-abiding individuals; under circumstances that call for a reasonable and justifiable alarm or immediate concern for the safety of property or persons in the vicinity.
Elements that must be proven beyond reasonable doubt to warrant a conviction include:
- The accused loitered or prowled at a time, in a manner, or in a place that is unusual for law-abiding individuals; and
- The accused behavior occurred under circumstances that called for reasonable and justifiable alarm or immediate concern for the safety of property or persons in the vicinity of the accused
Definition of “Alarm” or “Immediate Concern”
Under the law, to determine if “alarm” or “immediate concern” is justifiable and reasonable under the circumstance, the jury or judge may consider several factors, including but not limited to:
- If upon the arrival of law enforcement officials, the accused fled from the scene
- If upon a requisite request, the accused refused to identify himself
- If the accused made any attempt whatsoever to conceal himself or herself or any object in his or her possession
Under State Law, an individual tried for loitering or prowling would be charged with Misdemeanor of the Second Degree.
- Prison time: Maximum of 60 (Sixty) days
- Fine: Maximum of $500
Defenses that may be brought up to contest a charge of Loitering or Prowling are varied may be legal or factual. Common defenses are discussed below:
Mere Idleness, Suspicious Presence, Vagrancy
If an individual were to be idle or wandering (vagrancy) in a location, then a police office may not detain a citizen to explain their unusual presence or status. Therefore, a vague suspicion about an individual’s presence is an insufficient reason for a police office to arrest or detain a suspect.
In line with this directive, merely standing in a dark alley behind a closed church for example is not a sufficient ground to sustain a conviction for Loitering or Prowling.
Police Not Present
The two elements of the loitering and prowling crime under Florida State Law must occur in the presence of a police officer before the officer is empowered to arrest or detain a suspect. Accordingly, receiving a report from an anonymous source of suspicious behavior is insufficient ground for a police officer to take action to detain or arrest a suspect.
No Imminent Threat or Breach of Peace
According to the law, an individual may only be detained for Loitering or Prowling based on imminent threat or breach of peace, if the conduct of the individual comes close to, but fall short of, the actual perpetration or attempted perpetration of a substantive crime.
No Opportunity to Explain or Dispel Alarm
Proper conduct of an arrest for reasons of Loitering or Prowling warrants a police officer to after stopping or detaining the suspect give the suspect an opportunity to:
- Identify his/herself; and
- Explain his or her actions to dispel the immediate concern or alarm of the officer
A police may not follow this procedure on any of two basis;
- If the suspect flees upon sighting the police; or
- If circumstances make following the procedure impractical
Aside for both reasons, if the officer fails to comply with this procedure, or if it is proven in the trial court that the explanation provided by the accused was true, then the charge of loitering and prowling may be dismissed.
This defense point seeks to assert that it is unlawful for the prosecution to prove a charge, or justify a detention or an arrest based on subsequent reaction of the defendant to a police officer, if the police officer lacked reasonable suspicion or probable cause while making the arrest.
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If you have been charged with loitering and prowling, or believe you may be charged in near the future, give us a call today. Attorney Kenneth Padowitz, is known to be aggressive in his pursuit for justice. Kenneth Padowitz is an experienced Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorney with trial-proven results. Don’t let this accusation rob you of your rights. Contact Kenneth Padowitz, P.A. today; We represent clients throughout Broward and all of South Florida.