By Tom Rhodes, 2/19/2015
Today we have LEO’s not Peace Officers, their job is no longer to protect the peace, but to enforce laws. If you don’t know the difference, stop reading and go play Farmville or whatever is popular on FB. Try to look up a legal definition of a “lawful order.” It’s not well defined, and is generally anything a cop tells you to do, legal or not. If a cop gives you an order and you don’t obey it, chances are you will be arrested, often violently, detained and thrown in jail. Doesn’t matter what that order is, or if the LEO has the authority or right to make the order.
Take something as benign as a traffic stop. By Florida statute you are required to “show” your license when a LEO requests it. The law does not require you to surrender you license to the LEO. If an officer asks to “see your license” and you put your license up against the window of your car so he can see it, you are complying with both the law and his order. The question is if the officer asks for your license and requests you hand it to him, is that a legal order?
There is no Florida statute saying you must surrender you driver license to the police if requested. But there is a law that says you must follow all lawful orders. In reality all orders a cop give to a civilian are lawful. Want proof, find any case were a cop was disciplined anywhere in Florida for giving an unlawful order.
Let’s say you show your license as the law requires but refuse to surrender it as requested. What will happen is the cop with get angry, and may be arrest you for disobeying an officer, you will be strip searched and placed in jail. At some point in the future (1-3 days), charges may be dropped and you may be freed. You were not successful even though you didn’t break any law and were within your rights, being jailed for 3 days is excessive punishment for not actually breaking any law other than pissing off a cop. So now that your rights were abused you can’t do anything meaningful. Due to qualified immunity, you will not be able to sue the law enforcement officer. You might be able to sue the department, but the officer is completely in the free and will not be held responsible in any way. Even the department won’t be held responsible because their funding won’t be reduced, instead the municipality that runs the police department will use taxpayer money to pay you.
In reality no order given by a law enforcement officer is ever considered unlawful. No person has ever disobeyed an unlawful order, and had justice prevail. Nowhere in Florida has an officer ever been held accountable for “giving an unlawful order.”
The only way for there to have never been an officer held accountable for “giving an unlawful order,” is either that no order by an LEO is unlawful, or no LEO has ever given an unlawful order. The sad fact is that, today, in Florida, you have no legal right to not obey any order a cop gives you, whether the LEO has been granted that power by law or not. There is no such thing as an unlawful order by an LEO. That is a problem, and it is a problem or government doesn’t even want you to know, much less talk about.