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Loitering and Prowling

Many encounters between officers and defendants (typically younger defendants) start with the officer observing an individual "loitering or prowling". Contrary to popular belief, and what officers fail to realize, is that loitering or prowling requires a significantly higher level of activity than simply "hanging" out near a store or business. Officers will typically use this charge as a basis for detaining the defendant or justifying an encounter. The detainer will usually lead to other offenses and the discovery of warrants, drugs, or weapons. The statute requires the officer to observe conduct that would reasonably lead him or her to the conclusion that people or properties are in immediate danger. Very rarely is this standard ever met, and our defense lawyers can help identify this issue and file any appropriate motions to suppress to force the state to abandon the charges.

Illustrative case: Arnold Law Firm represented a client who was initially detained for loitering and search subsequent to the arrest led to a trafficking amount of drugs and cash. Our lawyers researched the matter and got the State, over the strenuous objection of the police officers, to drop the case and return the money to the client!

Every case is different so give us a call to discuss your matter with one of our attorneys. We tell our client's story to the prosecutor, judge, or jury if necessary to get the client the best possible outcome. Contact us if you need the services of a Jacksonville criminal defense lawyer.


856.021 Loitering or prowling; penalty.

(1) It is unlawful for any person to loiter or prowl in a place, at a time or in a manner not usual for law-abiding individuals, under circumstances that warrant a justifiable and reasonable alarm or immediate concern for the safety of persons or property in the vicinity.

(2) Among the circumstances which may be considered in determining whether such alarm or immediate concern is warranted is the fact that the person takes flight upon appearance of a law enforcement officer, refuses to identify himself or herself, or manifestly endeavors to conceal himself or herself or any object. Unless flight by the person or other circumstance makes it impracticable, a law enforcement officer shall, prior to any arrest for an offense under this section, afford the person an opportunity to dispel any alarm or immediate concern which would otherwise be warranted by requesting the person to identify himself or herself and explain his or her presence and conduct. No person shall be convicted of an offense under this section if the law enforcement officer did not comply with this procedure or if it appears at trial that the explanation given by the person is true and, if believed by the officer at the time, would have dispelled the alarm or immediate concern.

(3) Any person violating the provisions of this section shall be guilty of a misdemeanor of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.

History.--s. 1, ch. 72-133; s. 1384, ch. 97-102.

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