Loitering and Prowling is another catch-all charge based on a vaguely-worded law that police often use when they don’t have any real grounds for arrest. “Loitering is a charge where, 80 or 90 percent of the time, the charges are bogus,” said one defense attorney, adding that a good lawyer can almost always persuade prosecutors to dismiss the charges.
The phrasing of the law makes it easy for cops to arrest you on general principles, and while it’s a misdemeanor charge, the consequences can be severe and long-lasting. Even if you avoid jail time, a conviction means a permanent criminal record. Having an arrest record can ruin your job prospects, prevent you from receiving government benefits, or finding a place to live. If you are an immigrant, an arrest record can prevent you from getting resident status or even get you deported. It’s always best to talk with a lawyer when facing criminal charges. You can get a free consultation with the Rivas Law Firm by calling 407-349-4211.
Because the courts which deal with these cases are generally swamped, prosecutors rush cases through the system without much regard to your rights. Most people wind up pleading guilty because they think the prosecutor is letting them off easy with just a fine. But research shows that most defendants plead guilty without understanding the implications. And many don’t realize that if they’d hired a defense attorney, there’s a good chance they could have had the charges dismissed or had “adjudication withheld,” meaning it would not go on their record.
What is a Loitering and Prowling Charge in Florida?
The statute says that “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.”
Examples of loitering and prowling included hanging around late at night outside a convenience store or an apartment complex that isn’t where you live. Police generally charge people with loitering when it just looks like they’re up to no good.
Defense Against Prowling and Loitering Charges in Florida
Sometimes police have evidence that a loitering suspect is about to break the law, as when Sanford police picked up a couple of teens heading toward a mall that had been targeted for looting on social media. Usually, though, the situation isn’t so clear-cut, and police have certain rules to follow in order to make the charges stick. A good criminal defense attorney will find out if the cops followed the rules.
For instance, police respond to many calls about prowling from people who see suspicious
people lurking in the neighborhood. However, that in itself is not enough to charge someone who happens to be in the area with loitering. An officer has to actually observe suspicious looking behavior and be able to point out specific acts that indicate that the suspect was about to commit some kind of crime.
The main thing to remember is that while the state likes to rush people through the system without regard to their rights. Prosecutors will tempt you to plead guilty just to get it over with, but you should never surrender your rights without talking to a criminal defense lawyer. What’s best for the state is not always what’s best for you. By pleading guilty to a misdemeanor, you may be giving away more than you know. You can have an experienced and aggressive criminal defense attorney review your case for free. Call 407-349-4211 to speak with the Orlando criminal defense team at the Rivas Law Firm.