Tickets and Arrests Outside of an Officer’s Jurisdiction

Different government agencies in Florida employ police officers. Each of these political subdivisions, counties, cities, or towns has geographical boundaries separating them from neighboring jurisdictions. Law enforcement officers’ police powers are usually limited to within the boundaries of their own jurisdiction. 



Can Law Enforcement Officers Ever Arrest You When Outside Their Jurisdiction? 


In most cases, an officer’s authority is limited to the city, county, or state boundary. But there are situations when an officer can exercise their police power when they are outside their jurisdiction. In this blog post, when law enforcement officers can go outside their jurisdiction to arrest someone and under what circumstances they can even perform a citizen’s arrest.  


A law enforcement officer can make an arrest outside their own jurisdiction when: 


In the absence of one of the special circumstances listed below, the police cannot enter into another jurisdiction and exercise the same police powers they possess when they are within their own agency’s geographic boundaries. 


But there are exceptions to this general rule. The law recognizes that occasions will arise when an officer’s duty encourages them to go outside their jurisdiction. If they are stripped of their power immediately upon crossing a town line or a county border, the rule could lead to absurd results. 


The United States Supreme Court has ruled that several different circumstances authorize law enforcement officers to remain fully empowered to execute an arrest, even in a different jurisdiction. 


The circumstances in which police, deputies, and other law enforcement officers can make arrests in other jurisdictions include these: 


  • Police Are in Fresh Pursuit 
  • Two or More Jurisdictions Enter into a Mutual Aid Agreement 
  • Officer Witnessed a Felony 


Police Are in Fresh Pursuit 


“Fresh pursuit” refers to situations in which a police officer is actively chasing a fleeing suspect. This could occur immediately after a robbery when a car matching the description of the suspects is seen driving at a high speed away from the scene of the crime. Or a police officer may have attempted to stop a vehicle that refused to stop when signaled to do so when the police activated their lights and siren. 


Once a pursuit begins, the officer is not required to break off the chase merely because the suspected felon crossed a boundary between two jurisdictions. To do so would invite criminals to commit offenses near territorial boundaries and quickly flee across the boundary to escape responsibility. 


Police officers, deputies, or other officers in fresh pursuit (formerly called “hot pursuit”) of someone who committed an offense within their jurisdiction are lawfully permitted to continue that pursuit into other jurisdictions to detain and arrest the suspect.  


Mutual Aid Agreements 


Neighboring counties and municipalities often enter into agreements that permit one jurisdiction’s police department to call upon a neighbor to supplement their officers when their own department’s officers are overwhelmed. These agreements permit the officers of the departments involved to patrol locations in either territory and to exercise their full powers in their own and in their counterpart’s jurisdiction. 


Officer Witnessed a Felony in the Other Jurisdiction  


If an officer is outside their police jurisdiction, no mutual aid agreement exists, and there is no fresh pursuit, then the officer has no police power beyond any other person. However, if the officer witnesses the commission of a felony in the other jurisdiction, they are authorized to seize and detain the suspected felon until that jurisdiction’s own police officers arrive on the scene to take the suspect into custody.  


Citizen’s Arrest 


Just as any citizen who witnesses a felony can take steps to detain the offender until authorized police officers arrive, so too can a police officer who is off-duty and outside their jurisdiction. However, just as any citizen who wrongly makes a citizen’s arrest is liable for civil damages, the officer would also face the same liability and would probably not be covered by the immunity or insurance extended to them within their own territory. 


Can Officers Issue Tickets or Citations Outside Their Jurisdiction? 


It may seem reasonable an officer can pursue a fleeing felon into a neighboring jurisdiction when in the heat of an active car chase, but what about if the suspected offense is a misdemeanor or a traffic violation?  


Can an officer follow you into another jurisdiction to issue a ticket? 


In certain circumstances, police can issue a traffic ticket or a misdemeanor arrest outside of their own jurisdiction. However, such an event is extremely unusual. As with felonies, if the officer is engaged in a fresh pursuit with a misdemeanor suspect, the officer can continue into the neighboring jurisdiction. However, once the suspect is stopped in the other territory, the officer should request the assistance of that jurisdiction’s law enforcement to execute the arrest and conduct any search. 


An Experienced Defense Lawyer Will Challenge the Validity of Other-Jurisdiction Arrests 


Whenever a cross-boundary or jurisdictional question arises during an arrest, calling an experienced criminal defense lawyer immediately is imperative. The law applying to these cases is often ambiguous. 


The legality of cross-jurisdiction arrests can hinge on the smallest difference in the fact pattern. In the case of a traffic violation, if the officer signaled the driver to stop in their own jurisdiction but the driver carefully and promptly pulls over, but in another jurisdiction, is the ticket valid? 


If an officer is not authorized by some exception to general rule barring cross-jurisdiction arrests, the evidence obtained through the illegal arrest can be suppressed from use at a trial.   


These complicated jurisdictional questions require an experienced attorney’s analysis and thorough legal research.  


Learn More > What Happens if I get a DUI in Another State? 


Tampa Criminal Defense  


At Stechschulte Nell, Attorneys at Law, we have combined decades of criminal defense experience representing defendants charged with a wide range of offenses. Jurisdiction to effectuate an arrest is an unusual issue, but it is extremely potent. A strong argument that an officer was outside of their territorial jurisdiction during an arrest or a search can mean the difference between going to prison or going home. 


Don’t take a chance with your liberty. Contact Tampa’s Experienced Criminal Defense Firm Stechschulte Nell, Attorneys at Law. Call 813-280-1244 today.  

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