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When Duration Matters: Detention Versus Seizure

Posted by Fred Koberlein, Jr. | Nov 04, 2015 | 0 Comments

If a motor vehicle is stopped by an officer for the purpose of discussing a traffic violation, such as speeding, or improper lane changing, or for an investigation, the officer may ask the driver to leave the vehicle.  Technically, the driver's removal from the vehicle is classified as a seizure or detention of the driver. This is a critical distinction to make because if the driver exits the vehicle the officer is able to make observations that can lead the officer to believe that the driver is impaired in some way. During the process of detention, the officer has the opportunity to obtain additional information used to support a belief regarding impairment.  When taken together, these observations may form the basis of probable cause for arrest.

This is why the length of the detention is so critical. An officer may lawfully stop a citizen only long enough to accomplish the “purpose of the stop”. A great example of a reasonable timeframe for this has to do with an individual who is being stopped for a traffic violation. The officer can reasonably detain the individual for a period of time to write a ticket or a citation. In a DUI case, this may involve testing procedures or even waiting for additional officers to arrive on scene. If the stop is for investigation purposes, the officer can legally and reasonably detain someone for a period of time that is long enough to either dispel or confirm a reasonable suspicion. Unless additional facts develop during the reasonable time period for initially detaining the person, the officer cannot continue to hold such a person.

One of the biggest challenges in the law has to do with stopping to inspect tags, becausedistrict courts have not arrived at the same conclusion. While the Second District Court of Appeals found that an officer has no right to detain someone once it is clear that the tag is valid, the Fourth and Fifth District Courts of Appeal determined that the officer can engage in other activities beyond that point.

When the Florida Supreme Court heard the issue, it held that the officer can verify the validity of the tag and only continue personal contact with the driver to explain the initial reason for the stop. Unless there are independent grounds that develop to lead the officer to believe that the detention should be continued, the officer should release the individual after the validity of the tag has been confirmed and the reason for the initial stop has been explained.

As you can see, stops and detention by law enforcement (or government representatives in general) are evolving issues in the law and they can be quite complex. This is why it's so critical to have a criminal defense attorney walk you through the specifics of your case step by step, because details are critical in determining whether you were detained improperly. If you believe that you may have been detained too long during a stop, this can be an important factor in your criminal defense and you need to share it with your criminal attorney.  At Koberlein Law Offices we are continually investing in our research of new judicial decisions so that we can provide defenses that are consistent with the latest rulings from the appellate courts.

About the Author

Fred Koberlein, Jr.

Fred Koberlein is a trial attorney who opened Koberlein Law Offices after acquiring extensive legal experience in three legal practice areas, which are: personal injury law; criminal defense; and local government matters which require you to appear or present your matter before your local government Boards, government Councils, and government Agencies. Mr. Koberlein began trial preparation through an externship as a legal clerk with the Judges of the Third Judicial Circuit for Florida prior to his graduation from the University of Florida, College of Law.  After law school Mr. Koberlein was dedicated to becoming a trial attorney and worked with the Public Defender's Office from 2004 to 2007, where he was promoted to handling felony cases within eight months of hire.  Mr.  Koberlein has handled over 1500 criminal cases ranging from possession of cannabis, DUI, serious felonies, white-collar crimes, violations of probation hearings, and countless motion hearings. Mr.  Koberlein began practicing in the areas of personal injury and insurance defense during 2006.  Mr. Koberlein's experience in prosecuting personal injury claims against those insurance companies he was not representing and defending other insurance companies and their customers provided a unique experience where he was able to learn what each side anticipates from the opposing party.Next, Mr. Koberlein was hired by a City to defend the City's interests and three additional Cities quickly followed and retained Mr. Koberlein to protect their interests.  Currently, Mr. Koberlein represents a total of four (4) municipalities in the North Florida area.  As Mr. Koberlein focused on civil litigation he remained passionate about representing individuals charged with misdemeanor and felony crimes as well as civil litigation issues. Mr.  Koberlein has the experience and reputation to negotiate a favorable resolution in your matter, and if that is not possible, to provide the best, most zealous trial representation available.  Utilizing competent and trusted investigators and experts, your case will be prepared so that the best result will be achieved.  If you or a loved one is hurt, damaged, or is facing criminal charges, you want a qualified, hard-working attorney who will explain your options to you in a straightforward, commonsense, and honest manner. Education and Practice Experience: University of Florida; Gainesville, Florida; Bachelor of Science, 1997 University of South Florida; Tampa, Florida; 1998 University of Florida, College of Law; Gainesville, Florida; 2003 Bar and Court Admissions: Florida Bar, 2004 – Present All 67 Counties in Florida All 20 Circuits in Florida U.S. District Court, Middle District of Florida U.S. District Court, Northern District of Florida Professional and Civic Activities: Florida Bar Trial Lawyers, 2007 – Present Florida Bar Business Law Section, 2007 – Present Florida Bar Criminal Law Section, 2004 – Present Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, 2004 – Present Third Judicial Bar Association, 2004 – Present Mr.  Koberlein is committed to his clients and devotes himself to protecting their interests from the beginning to the end of their case.  Mr. Koberlein has spent his career helping clients defend themselves against criminal charges, fight insurance companies, and proceed through the bureaucratic process of local governments.  Mr. Koberlein welcomes the opportunity to meet with you and evaluate your legal needs and provide you with an experienced and competent analysis.

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