Traffic stops on private property: what’s the rule?

Florida police have the authority to execute traffic stops on "streets and highways," but what about on private property like apartment complexes? Can you be cited for driving actions seen by police but which occur on private property?

Jurisdiction

The simple answer originates from a question of jurisdiction. That question is; "was the officer executing a traffic stop in their rightful jurisdiction?" If not, you can fight your ticket and win. If so, you're out of luck.

Most courts 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. This is because the road/parking lot is not generally considered to be open to the public for vehicular traffic use.

For the ticket to stand, the prosecution must prove that the roadway was open for use by the general public. If they cannot, the court may find that the officer was acting outside of his or her jurisdiction and dismiss the charges. Many lots and drives even have tow notices, which threaten non-residents with towing if they are found parked in the area. These can serve as proof that the area was never intended for use by the general public.

Exceptions to Jurisdiction

As with most fields of law, 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 may always 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 broken light would be dismissed.

If you've been pulled over on private property, you may be able to have your ticket dismissed.

Contact Skubiak & Rivas to see how you can win your case. We represent drivers against criminal and non-criminal traffic violations throughout Central Florida.

Call 407-894-4449 today for a free consultation.

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