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Can Florida police take my keys during a traffic stop?

On Behalf of | Jul 1, 2024 | CRIMINAL LAW - Criminal Law

Readers of this blog know that we touch on many criminal law topics, and a frequent question concerns the rights of drivers during traffic stops. One such question is whether Florida police can legally take a driver’s keys during a traffic stop to prevent the driver from fleeing.

Legal framework of traffic stops

Traffic stops are classified as seizures under the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. For a police officer to conduct a traffic stop, they must have a legitimate reason, often referred to as “reasonable suspicion” or “probable cause” for believing a traffic violation or crime has occurred.

The officer is obligated to inform the driver of the reason for the stop, and during the stop, the driver is expected to comply with reasonable requests, such as presenting their license and registration.

Generally, during a routine traffic stop, police officers do not have the authority to take your keys unless there is probable cause to believe that a crime has been committed or there is a specific reason for the search. This means that in the absence of a valid reason, an officer cannot simply confiscate your keys during a traffic stop.

Consequences of fleeing from police

Fleeing or attempting to elude a police officer is considered a serious crime in Florida. If a driver, knowing that a police officer has directed them to stop, willfully refuses to comply, or stops and then attempts to flee, they commit a third-degree felony. This is a grave offense with significant legal consequences, including potential imprisonment.

Motorcycle riders and the “No Chase Law”

Florida has a specific “No Chase Law” that limits police pursuits of motorcycles. Under this law, police are generally prohibited from engaging in high-speed chases with motorcycles unless there is reasonable suspicion of a serious felony or reckless driving. This law acknowledges the high risks associated with pursuing motorcycles at high speeds and aims to reduce potential accidents and injuries.

While Florida police have the authority to conduct traffic stops and take necessary measures to ensure public safety, they cannot arbitrarily take a driver’s keys during a traffic stop without a valid reason.

Drivers, including motorcycle riders, should be aware of their rights during a traffic stop and ensure compliance with lawful orders from law enforcement officers. Understanding these legal nuances can help protect your rights and avoid unnecessary legal complications.