When a police officer or firefighter tells you to do something when you’re on a public road, you have to do it. According to Florida Statute 316.072, it’s against the law for “any person willfully to fail or refuse to comply with any lawful order or direction of any law enforcement officer, traffic crash investigation officer… or member of the fire department at the scene of a fire, rescue operation, or other emergency.”
While the law is designed primarily to keep traffic moving at an accident scene, it can apply to any situation. During periods of civil unrest or public health emergencies, authorities like to remind people who’s in control. For example, the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) has invoked the law during public demonstrations against police violence in Miami, citing the statute in a media advisory:
“F.S.S. 316.072 Obedience to and Effect of Traffic Law; Obedience to Police Officials – defines it is unlawful for any person willfully to fail or comply with any lawful order or direction of a law enforcement officer. It is a misdemeanor of the second degree and an arrestable offense,” FHP said. “We expect demonstrators, media members, and the public to obey these statutes. failure to do so will subject an individual to arrest upon being given a lawful order.”
Prosecutors sometimes bring the charge in connection with Resisting Arrest. Tampa police charged a demonstrator with Failure to Obey a Lawful Order as well as Resisting Arrest during a disturbance in Hillsborough County.
Defense Against Failure to Obey a Lawful Order Charges
The defense of these charges may involve a definition and interpretation of the wording of the law. Under the statute, a prosecutor must prove that a defendant “knowingly” or “willfully” disobeyed a “lawful” order. The terms may seem clear-cut in an ordinary situation like a cop or firefighter directing traffic at an accident scene. But in chaotic situations such as public demonstrations, there may be room for interpretation.
However, a criminal defense attorney is more likely to win such a case on procedural grounds. A good lawyer conducts a thorough investigation of the case. An attorney may find that police violated procedure during the arrest or that they mishandled evidence. There may be witnesses that contradict facts alleged in the complaint. An aggressive defense attorney will challenge the prosecutor at every step, scrutinizing police reports to expose contradictions and errors. It may be possible to have the case dismissed without even going to trial.
If the case does go to trial, a criminal defense lawyer can work to improve your chances of
acquittal by filing motions to exclude evidence, for example. If you are up against the law in Florida, your best chance of beating the charges is with an experienced and aggressive criminal defense attorney. The sooner you get with a lawyer about your case, the better.
Consider the Orlando Criminal Defense Attorneys at the Rivas Law Firm. Call 407-349-4211 for a free consultation. Call now to discuss your options so you can get on with your life.