Whether in your own mind you believe that you may be guilty or innocent of a crime, it's important to know what to do once a law enforcement officer approaches you.
In the case of being stopped while driving a motor vehicle in the State of Florida, a police officer can pull you over at any time. He can ask for information such as driver's license, vehicle registration and proof of insurance. Of course if he's stopped you for a violation of the law he can choose whether or not to ticket you for driving offenses such as speeding, ignoring a red light or stop sign, as well as many other traffic infractions. He can also cite you for faulty equipment such as a broken light or anything he feels can present a danger to other motorists and pedestrians.
He cannot search your vehicle under the protection of your rights under the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution. However, if when you're approached he believes he smells alcohol on your breath, or notices drugs or weapons in clear view, this gives him probable cause to question you further, search the vehicle and place you under arrest based on his findings and estimations.
If an officer comes to your home, he may not enter it without an authorized person permitting him entry, or if he has probable cause and a valid search warrant signed by a judge or magistrate. Again in this situation the Fourth Amendment protects you against unreasonable searches and seizures.
There are exceptions to this rule when exigent or emergency circumstances appear evident to the officer.
An example of this can be a police officer, noticing illegal drugs in clear view, from where he stands outside the residence. This would give the officer the right to enter the premises, seize the illegal substance and begin an investigation into the drug's ownership. He might arrest a suspect if he feels they are connected to the drugs.
Another example would be if an officer felt that a person was in danger of bodily harm, viewing its potential from his vantage point outside the home.
In a case of a police officer stopping you on the street, they may ask for a consensual search. But if you choose to say no, the officer would be required to have probable cause that you are in the process of the commission of a crime, a crime was committed with your involvement, or you were about to commit a crime. He also can search you if he notices a transaction of what he believes to be illegal narcotics, or sees what he believes to be a concealed firearm or a part of one such as its handle.
A police or probation officer has the right to stop and search any person that is known to have been convicted of a felony or is currently on parole or probation.
Of course it will be up to the courts to determine if a search was actually justified.
What do I do if I'm arrested?
If you are placed under arrest by either state or federal authorities it is mandatory that the arresting officer voices or read your Miranda rights. You will be asked if you understand these rights and in many cases you will be asked if you'll agree to waive them. Never waive these rights!
If you, a family member or close friend is arrested, or if you're aware that an arrest is imminent, try to remember that less is more. Give as little information to law enforcement officials as possible; or preferably don't speak at all, until an attorney is retained and present to advise you. Legal representation is essential before any facts, opinions or assumptions are relayed to law enforcement as well as the potential prosecution.
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