We all know that Florida police have the authority to pull drivers over on “streets and highways,” but what about on private property like apartment complexes? Can you be cited for driving actions witnessed by police but which occur on private property?
A Question Of Jurisdiction
Anytime a police officer makes a traffic stop, there is a question of jurisdiction. Was he or she performing their duty in a jurisdiction in which they were legally able to do so?
Courts generally hold that private roads and parking lots do not meet the definition of a street or highway and, as such, do not fall under the jurisdiction of the local police force. The reasoning behind this is that the road/parking lot is not generally considered to be open to the public for vehicular traffic use.
If the prosecution can’t prove that the roadway was open for use by the general public, the court may find that the officer was acting outside of his or her jurisdiction and dismiss the charges. Indeed, many lots and drives even have Two Notices, which threaten non-residents with towing if they are found parked in the area. That can serve as proof that the area was never intended for use by the general public.
Exceptions To The Rule
As with most legal issues, there are exceptions to the rule. In some cases, the officer’s actions can be justified if there is a written agreement between the private property owner and local law enforcement. This agreement must explicitly provide law enforcement with traffic control jurisdiction over the roadway or parking lot in question.
This rule applies only to traffic stops on private property. Officers are always well within their rights to investigate crimes on private property without a written agreement. That means an officer can pull over someone who is suspected of DUI on private property because DUI is a crime. But a broken headlight is not a crime and a traffic stop on private property for the express purpose of issuing a citation for the light would not be allowed.
Defend Yourself Against Unlawful Traffic Stops With Help From Skubiak & Rivas Traffic Law Firm
Contact Skubiak & Rivas for advice and representation for Florida traffic stops. We represent drivers against criminal and non-criminal traffic violations throughout Central Florida.
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