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Fleeing Time Below the Poverty Line - Is it a Crime? C.E.L. v. State and its Impact on Indigent Defense and Police-Citizen Relations

24 Pages Posted: 23 Nov 2011 Last revised: 21 Oct 2014

Theresa Nolan Breslin

University of Miami - University of Miami Law Review

Date Written: November 21, 2011


This paper discusses the legal basis for the Florida Supreme Court’s decision in C.E.L. v. State (C.E.L. II), which criminalizes the act of “continued flight” from law enforcement. The case is controversial in light of the community-police tensions in high-crime, low-income areas of Florida. This paper argues that the Florida legislature should take steps to protect certain individuals who may unwittingly find themselves caught in the broad net of this crime.

Part II of this paper begins by discussing the statute at issue, found in section 843.02 of the Florida Statues. This note also discusses basic Fourth Amendment principles, including consensual encounters, the investigatory stop, and probable cause for a lawful arrest. In Part II–A, this paper analyzes the U.S. Supreme Court precedent Terry v. Ohio and Illinois v. Wardlow, interpreting the reasonableness of warrantless seizures and pat-downs under the Fourth Amendment. Part II–B discusses the conflicting case law in the Florida District Courts of Appeal leading to the decision in C.E.L. II, including an in-depth analysis of the lower court C.E.L. v. State (C.E.L. I) decision, much of which the Florida Supreme Court adopts.

Part III–A will offer an analysis of the C.E.L. II decision itself, as its reasoning is constrained by the Florida Constitution. In Part III–B, this paper focuses on Justice Pariente’s concurrence, which highlights defenses in the criminal attorney’s arsenal. These include (1) disputing the existence of reasonable articulable suspicion to justify the investigatory stop, (2) arguing the defendant’s flight was not “unprovoked” or “headlong,” and (3) disputing the site of arrest as a “high-crime area.” Part III–C briefly mentions suppression cases decided after C.E.L. II and considers where this area of the law may be heading.

Part IV concludes this note by offering political solutions to the problems presented by the current state of the law, both legislative and executive. This paper recommends adding additional language to section 843.02 in an approach borrowed from the “community caretaking” model. Here, this paper proposes that as a condition to a warrantless arrest under the statute, the officer must have reasonable grounds to believe that some emergency exists. This proposal brings the statute in line with the initial bases for allowing such stops from Terry v. Ohio and Illinois v. Wardlow. Also, this solution takes into account the concerns of the lower district courts of appeal giving rise to the legal conflict.

Suggested Citation

Breslin, Theresa Nolan, Fleeing Time Below the Poverty Line - Is it a Crime? C.E.L. v. State and its Impact on Indigent Defense and Police-Citizen Relations (November 21, 2011). University of Miami Law Review, Vol. 66, p. 401, 2012. Available at SSRN:

Theresa Nolan Breslin (Contact Author)

University of Miami - University of Miami Law Review ( email )

1311 Miller Drive
B-349 Law Library
Coral Gables, FL 33124
United States

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