Florida Supreme Court rules fleeing police ‘resisting arrest’

Tampa, Fla.

The Florida Supreme Court ruled Thursday that it is illegal to run from a police officer in a high-crime area after being asked to stop. The offense is considered resisting arrest without violence.

From the St. Petersburg Times:

Fleeing alone is not a criminal offense. But the state’s highest court cited a 2000 U.S. Supreme Court decision that held that running from police in high-crime areas created the reasonable suspicion needed to make a lawful investigative stop.

Coupled with Florida law, continued flight in knowing defiance of law enforcement constituted resisting arrest without violence, the majority said.

“This Court is obligated to apply the law as written by the Legislature and to follow the Fourth Amendment precedent laid out by the United States Supreme Court, even if we question the wisdom of that precedent or the public policy behind the law,” the majority opinion stated.

This ruling specifically affects a case in 2007 where a 15-year-old boy from Hillsborough County saw police patrolling his apartment complex (located in a high-crime area) and ran when the patrol car approached. He continued to run after the police asked him to stop. This case brought about the need for a Fla Supreme Court decision, as the case was appealed in many levels of district courts. The state Supreme Court addressed a question that needed clarifying: does running from the police after being asked to stop constitute resisting arrest?


“When you start talking about stopping people,” Proffitt said, “it’s a very broad area of law.”

Unlike for vehicular pursuits, the St. Petersburg Police Department doesn’t have a policy about who officers can run after and why. That’s up to the officers. But it does have rules when officers stop and question people.

“Short of an arrest,” Proffitt said, “an officer needs a reasonable, articulable suspicion that somebody has committed a crime.”

Police, as history has seen, tend to overstep their constitutional bounds. Technically the police are not allowed to search your car without “probable cause,” but does that law necessarily dissuade them from creating probable cause?

This recent state Supreme Court ruling raises a striking question: even if one is doing nothing wrong and is not involved in any illegal activity, what is one resisting arrest for?

Also, how will this ruling affect poor neighborhoods? Will it make criminals out of law-abiding citizens? Will it make criminals out of the people who were simply taught to steer clear of the police?

The full text of the ruling can be found here at the Florida Supreme Court website.
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