If a police officer wants to stop you on the street, he or she has to have a reasonable suspicion to believe that you have committed or are committing a crime. A recent case out of Florida’s Second District Court of Appeals involving an alleged Tampa burglary crime is a good example of just how seriously judges take that requirement.
The case stemmed from an incident on the University of South Florida campus. A man testified that he was driving near the campus when he noticed two people fighting. He said he observed a young man in a white tank top and jeans on a bicycle trying to get away from a young woman pulling on his tank top and yelling “he stole my phone.” The man on the bike swung his arms at the woman and was able to shake her off and get away.
A USF police officer later responded to the scene and said she noticed three suspects on bikes in the area. She said one of the suspects was wearing a white tank top and shorts. The officer flashed her vehicle’s police lights and yelled “stop, police,” but the man in the tank top fled the scene. A Tampa police officer later apprehended a person whom the court called “B.M.” in a shed in a residential backyard. The USF officer identified B.M. as the person who had fled. He was charged with resisting an officer and burglary. The officers did not recover the missing phone. B.M. was eventually convicted on both charges and sentenced to juvenile probation.
The Second District reversed the convictions on appeal, finding that the USF officer didn’t have proper grounds to stop B.M. in the first place. “As a general rule, flight, standing alone, is insufficient to form the basis of a resisting without violence charge,” the court explained. “There must be some additional factor or factors, which, when combined with flight, would give rise to a reasonable suspicion that criminal activity is afoot.” In this case, the court said the USF officer failed to show that she had a reasonable suspicion to believe that B.M. was involved in a crime. She didn’t show that she had received a description of a suspect in the cell phone theft investigation and did not claim that she came across B.M. in a high crime area. “According to the detective’s testimony, the only information she knew was the time of the robbery and the suspect’s known direction of travel,” the court said.
The burglary charge was based on B.M. being in the residential shed without permission from the property owner. To prove burglary in Florida, police have to show that the person charged entered a dwelling or structure with the intent to commit a criminal offense. In this case, the prosecutors said B.M. was attempting to evade police. Since the court said the cops had no reason to stop B.M., it also reversed his burglary conviction.
If you or a loved one has been charged with a crime in Florida, it is essential that you seek the advice and counsel of an experienced lawyer. Tampa burglary defense attorney Will Hanlon is a seasoned lawyer who fights aggressively on behalf of clients charged with a wide range of offenses. Call our offices at (813) 228-7095 or contact us online to speak with Mr. Hanlon about your case.
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