Archive for February, 2013

A real victimless crime because it hasn’t happened yet

February 1, 2013

Loitering/prowling is probably the only criminal statute in FL State law that punishes suspected criminal activity that might happen, rather than all the other statutes that punish criminal activity that did happen. Loitering/prowling is on most state books to prevent crime rather than to investigate a crime that has been committed. Therefore since the state legislatures are leaving it up to the Leo to determine whether he suspects that a crime may be about to occur, this statute is pretty wide open to abuse.

This would be like having a statute that punished drivers for attempted running of a stop sign, giving the Leo the right to pull you over 100 yds in front of the stop sign and cite you because he suspected that you might not stop at the stop sign.

However, just standing around on a street corner or a sidewalk is not enough to be loitering. There has to be an imminent threat to public safety or property. For instance, a gentleman is standing on a sidewalk near an intersection with a sign that says, “Homeless
Vet, God Bless”. He may not be moving to go anywhere and people are rolling down their windows to give him money, but he is not loitering because the definition of loitering includes the element that there has to be an imminent threat to public safety with his presence. Also he isn’t soliciting from a public right of way, because his sign isn’t asking for handouts.

In State v. Ecker, 311 So.2d 104 (1975), the complaint reflects that the defendant was observed in front of an apartment building. When approached for identification, he apparently had no proper or credible identification. The charging complaint shows no circumstances that threaten the public safety, and, therefore a charge of loitering could not be properly established.