We are all created equal. We hold this truth to be self evident. But, the police are entitled to inflict unequal treatment depending upon where you live. According to the Florida Supreme Court, police may stop someone running from them in a bad neighborhood, yet they cannot stop someone for running in a good neighborhood. So, let the war of the social classes begin. How is it that Florida courts have widened the gap between the rich and the poor? Read on to discover this week’s bad case breakdown.
We’re talking here about “fleeing” cases, when citizens decide to avoid an encounter with police. Back in the day, avoiding law enforcement was a perfectly legal activity, and the bare suspicion created by police avoidance was not a reason to stop someone. It’s a free country, so there should be no obligation to hang out and speak to the police–nor anyone else for that matter.
Well, our state is officially less free, as was the holding by the Florida Supreme Court in C.E.L. v. State, 24 So. 3d 1181 (Fla. 2009). In C.E.L., a juvenile was charged with Resisting an Officer Without Violence upon fleeing police officers. The legality of this stop was the officer’s testimony that the unprovoked fleeing occurred in a “high crime area“. Our Florida Supreme Court reluctantly followed a United States Supreme Court decision in Illinois v. Wardlow, 528 U.S. 119, 124 (2000), where a similar decision was reached (this is how bad law becomes worse, in case you’re wondering).
So it’s true. If you have enough money to live in a good neighborhood, avoiding the police is perfectly legal. In a bad neighborhood, it’s a resisting an officer without violence charge. Just in case relations between law enforcement and citizens in bad neighborhoods couldn’t get any worse, court decisions like this should make these poor folks residing in poor neighborhoods feel even better. …And justice for all…