Loitering or Prowling


SHORSTEIN, LASNETSKI, & GIHON
helps people defend against
Loitering or Prowling
allegations.

Loitering or Prowling is a crime in Florida that is often charged by law enforcement when someone is in an area and the police think that person is going to commit a burglary or some other crime, but have no actual evidence of any crime.  Police officers often charge this crime when there is no factual basis to obtain a conviction and when the citizen is engaged in lawful, constitutionally protected conduct.  Call the experienced Jacksonville criminal defense lawyers of SLG Law to discuss your loitering or prowling case. 
What is Loitering or Prowling?

Loitering or Prowling is extremely ambiguous.  As a practical matter, this statute is typically used by law enforcement to arrest someone who is engaged in suspicious conduct.  For example, an officer might arrest someone for loitering or prowling if he was standing near a convenience store after hours and looking around suspiciously, or for walking in-between residential houses in a neighborhood he doesn't live in during late hours of the night.  Typically, an officer will have the lawful authority to detain the person only long enough for the person to give a reasonable explanation of what they are doing.  Whether the officer was justified in detaining you is a legal question and a criminal defense attorney can file a motion to dismiss to challenge the officer's detention of you.  

Loitering or Prowling is defined in Florida Statute Section 856.021.  To prove Loitering or Prowling, the State must prove that the person loitered or prowled in a place, at a time, or in a manner that isn't usual for individuals who are engaged in law abiding conduct and the State must prove that the circumstances warrant justifiable and reasonable alarm or immediate concern of the safety of property or people within the area. 

What circumstances would cause alarm or immediate concern?

Some of the circumstances that the courts have held may cause alarm and immediate concern to support a loitering or prowling conviction are:

  • fleeing when you see a law enforcement officer
  • refusing to identify yourself
  • attempting to conceal yourself or an object.

Can a police officer arrest me for Loitering or Prowling just because I'm somewhere they think is unusual?

Unless you flee or there is some other reasonable reason why the police officer can't ask you what you are doing, the law requires the officer to afford you the opportunity to dispel any alarm or immediate concern by identifying yourself and explaining your presence and conduct. 

What is the potential sentence for Loitering or Prowling?

Loitering or Prowling is a Second Degree Misdemeanor, punishable by up to 60 days in jail.  Call the SLG criminal defense lawyers to discuss other potential options in your case.  For example, a criminal defense lawyer may be able to convince a prosecutor that the arrest should not have been made or that they will not be able to prove the case which could result in the prosecutor dropping the charges.  Other possible outcomes could be a pretrial diversion program, probation, court costs, and more.  

What are the possible defenses to Loitering or Prowling?

The most common defense to Loitering and Prowling is that your conduct did not rise to the level that warranted justifiable and reasonable alarm or immediate concern for the safety of people or property.  Many people are arrested for Loitering or Prowling for simply standing around.  They may be prejudged or profiled because of the way they look or how they dress. The actions or conduct the officer thought rose to the level of alarm often are actions of a person minding their own business and not engaged in any criminal conduct.  Give our experienced Jacksonville criminal defense attorneys a call to discuss the options in your Loitering or Prowling case. 

FLORIDA LOITERING AND PROWLING CASE LAW

State v. Ecker, 311 So.2d 104 (Fla. 1975) - In Ecker, the Florida Supreme Court laid out the elements of a loitering and prowling offense.  The Court determined that the State must prove (1) that the defendant loitered or prowled in a place, at a time, or in a manner that is not usual for law abiding people, and (2) that the loitering and prowling was under circumstances that justified alarm or immediate concern for the safety of people or property in the area.  The Court noted that a law enforcement officer must be able to articulate specific facts to establish the officer's reasonable concern.  

Fields v. State of Florida, 292 So. 3d 889 (Fla. 2nd DCA) - In Fields, law enforcement received a 911 call reporting that a black man was standing on the caller's elderly neighbor's doorstep trying to turn the doorknob.  A police officer responded to the call and saw a man matching the description given by the caller about a block or two away.  The officer stopped Fields and asked him where he was coming from.  Field refused to answer.  Fields tried to walk away and the officer grabbed him, detained him, and eventually arrested him for Loitering and Resisting without violence. Mr. Fields filed a motion to suppress arguing that the law enforcement officer did not have reasonable suspicion to detain him and did not have probable cause to arrest him.   The judge denied the motion to suppress and Mr. Fields appealed.  On appeal, the 2nd DCA reversed finding that the law enforcement officer did not have reasonable suspicion or probable cause.  The appellate court noted that there was no evidence that Mr. Fields was looking in windows or skulking about.  Mr. Fields did not run away from law enforcement or try to conceal himself.  The appellate court found that the caller's information was merely a hunch and there was no articulable suspicion of criminal activity. The 2nd DCA also found that there was no probable cause to arrest Mr. Fields for loitering or prowling because the law enforcement officer did not personally observe conduct that would create the required alarm in the officer's mind.  

 I.G. v. State of Florida, 245 So.3rd 897 (Fla. 3rd DCA) - I.G. involved a juvenile who was stopped by police based on a 911 call that reported two males looking into vehicles and pulling on door handles in a parking lot.  The parking lot was located in a gated community.  A detective responded and witnessed I.G. and another male looking into three or four vehicles and pulling on the door handles of those vehicles.  The detective detained I.G. and asked what he was doing in the area.  I.G. could not provide the detective with an explanation.  I.G. was arrested for loitering or prowling.  Upon appeal, the 3rd DCA affirmed the trial court finding that the detective had reasonable suspicion to detain I.G. 

If you or a loved one has been arrested for or accused of
Loitering or Prowling,

Call Shorstein, Lasnetski & Gihon Now!
Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorneys

904-642-3332 (Jacksonville)

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