Presumed Guilty For Running From Police in Jacksonville Florida

If you don’t have anything to hide, you won’t mind if I search your car. You’re not doing anything illegal in there, so it’s okay if I come inside, right? You don’t need a lawyer, because you’re not lying. If you didn’t do anything wrong, why were you running?

As a Jacksonville criminal lawyer, I have heard statements like the ones mentioned above all too often. Why do you have to speak to a police officer? Why do you need to consent to a search? You should not feel bad for exercising your right to privacy. You should not feel like you need to sacrifice your rights. The constitution protects us against unlawful searches and seizures. The constitution gives you the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney. You should not feel guilty for saying “No!”

What if you run from the police in Jacksonville FL? Does this mean that you have done something wrong? The police will likely presume that you are guilty of something. The general public may also presume that you have done something wrong. The law does not presume that you are guilty, but a jury could use this evidence against you. In Florida, evidence of flight can be used against a criminal defendant. The Florida Supreme court has ruled, “Evidence that a defendant was seen at the scene of a crime, leaving the scene, or fleeing from the scene, in most instances, would be relevant to the question of the defendant’s guilt. Such evidence, like any other evidence offered at trial, is weighed and measured by its degree of relevance to the issues in the case.” Fenelon v. State, 594 So. 2d 292 (Fla. 1992). “Evidence of flight is admissible as circumstantial evidence of guilt ‘where there is sufficient evidence that the defendant fled to avoid prosecution of the charged offense.'” Merritt v. State, 523 So.2d 573 (Fla.1988). Lefevre v. State, 585 So. 2d 457, 458 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1991) “To support the flight instruction, the record must at the least indicate not only that the accused left the scene, but that the actions of the accused indicate intent to avoid detection or capture so as to be properly translated into consciousness of guilt.” Lefevre v. State, 585 So. 2d 457, 458 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1991)

Under Florida law, running from the police alone is not enough for a jury instruction about flight and consciousness of guilt, but what will a jury think if they hear that the defendant ran? The general public believes that if you are running from the police, you must have done something wrong. Why would someone run from a police officer? As a Jacksonville criminal attorney, I can think of a few reasons why. Some people have a general distrust for police officers.  There are neighborhoods were the police are not welcomed.  In return, police officers may act more defensive in these areas.  They are more likely to fear for their own lives and therefore be more willing to react with deadly force.  Based upon these circumstances, the children that are raised in these neighborhoods may grow up believing that the police are not there to help them.

Just like any other profession, there are good cops and bad cops. Think about it. There are good doctors (that care for their patients) and bad doctors (that commit medical malpractice). There are good lawyers and bad lawyers. There are good teachers and bad teachers. If you were confronted with a “bad” cop in the past, you may be a little more reluctant to cooperate with a police officer in the future.

If you still wonder why someone would run from the police, think about police shootings. Yes. Police must protect themselves. Police must defend themselves. However, shooting is not always the answer. We hear about police shootings in the news in Jacksonville. What if this occurred in your neighborhood? Would you be afraid of the police? An example is the police shooting that occurred this week in Ferguson Missouri. An unarmed, young, black man being was killed by a police officer. See Michael Brown Killed By Officer In Fatal Shooting. This may cause people in the area to be afraid of police.

About Cynthia, 20 Miles Law

Cynthia Veintemillas

Jacksonville Criminal Lawyer Cynthia Veintemillas Photo

Cynthia Veintemillas is an experienced Florida attorney. She began her legal career at the public defender’s office in Jacksonville, Florida. Her primary practice fields include criminal defense, litigation, and family law. She has also represented many people facing foreclosure in Duval County, Clay County, and St. Johns County, Florida.

Jurisdictions Admitted to Practice

  • Florida, 2006
  • South Carolina, 2007
  • Middle District of Florida, 2009

Professional & Bar Association Memberships

  • Florida Bar 
Member Since: 2006
  • South Carolina 
Member Since: 2007
  • Jacksonville Bar 
Member Since: 2008
  • Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers