Yes, under certain circumstances, police can make an arrest without a warrant so long as they have probable cause to believe the arrestee committed an offense. There are certain exceptions to this general rule, though.
Situations in Which Florida Police Can Make Warrantless Arrests
Florida Statute § 901.15 lists all the situations in which officers can make arrests without a warrant. These include:
- “The person has committed a felony or misdemeanor or violated a municipal or county ordinance in the presence of the officer.”
- The officer knows or has reason to believe a felony was committed or is being committed and has a valid reason to believe the alleged perpetrator committed or is currently committing it.
- The person has a standing warrant out that another officer has in his/her possession.
Arrests for Acts Not Witnessed by Police
For certain crimes, a police officer does not have to witness a person committing the offense to make an arrest. If an officer has probable cause to think the alleged perpetrator committed one of the following crimes, they can arrest on the spot without a warrant:
- Violation of an injunction
- Acts of domestic violence
- Child abuse
- Luring or enticing a child for unlawful purposes
- A criminal act of sexual cyberharassment or stalking
- Criminal mischief or graffiti
- A violation of a safety zone, security zone, regulated navigation area, or naval vessel protection zone
- Trespass in a secure area of an airport
- Assault on a police officer, firefighter, emergency medical care provider, or public transit employee
General Exception: Arrests at Your Residence
In most cases, officers cannot enter your home and perform a search or arrest you without a court order or arrest warrant. If the police knock on your door, ask to see the warrant and examine it. If the warrant appears valid, do not resist arrest — even if you think the arrest is unfair. Resisting arrest, even without violence, can lead to additional charges.
Instead, to best protect yourself:
- Do not struggle, run, or act overly discourteous;
- Do not answer the officers’ questions, other than providing your basic identifying information; and
- Let the officer know that you will not answer any further questions without your attorney present. (If you do not have an attorney, call 727-828-3900; one of our criminal attorneys would be glad to help.)
The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida suggests the following: “Do not say anything, sign anything or make any decision without a lawyer. Prepare yourself and your family in case you are arrested. Memorize the phone numbers of your family and your lawyer. Make emergency plans if you have children or need to take a medication.”
Understanding the “Reasonableness” Requirement
Per the Fourth Amendment, you have the right “to be secure in [your person], houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.” The law provides that for many circumstances, police must have a warrant to search, seize, or arrest. This amendment serves to protect people’s privacy and freedom from unreasonable invasion by the government.
However, so as not to unnecessarily interfere with law enforcement’s ability to do their job, the Supreme Court created exceptions to the warrant requirement. The Fourth Amendment justifies warrantless arrests when:
- When there is a threat to public security;
- When the officer has probable cause, and there is an urgent need;
- When the officer has probable cause and a reasonable belief that the person is guilty, based on the facts;
- To prevent a suspect from escaping; or
- To preserve evidence.
“A suspect arrested without a warrant is entitled to prompt judicial determination, usually within 48 hours,” according to the Legal Information Institute.
Arrest Policy for Other Misdemeanors
Officers can arrest someone for a felony that the officer did not witness the perpetrator committing. However, other than the misdemeanor exceptions and conditions listed above, police officers cannot arrest people for misdemeanor crimes not committed in the officers’ presence without a warrant.
For cases in which an officer has reason to believe someone committed a misdemeanor offense but did not witness the crime, the process involves the following:
- The officer will submit a report to the State Attorney’s Office (SAO) to request an arrest warrant.
- A prosecutor at the SAO will investigate the complaint to determine whether the person committed a crime.
- The SAO will then determine whether it needs to file charges (called “an Information).
- If the SAO files charges, the SAO will prepare an arrest warrant or issue summons.
Free Consult with a Defense Attorney in Florida
If you or a loved one has been arrested, protect your rights and get the legal defense you need. Contact our defense attorneys at Goldman Wetzel for a free, one-on-one informative consultation.