With some exceptions, police officers generally work for a county or city department. In Florida, we do have the Florida Highway Patrol and officers who work for multiple agencies and federal law enforcement officers, but most cases of common crime, like DUI cases, will involve a county or city police officer. Those police officers are generally only allowed to investigate crimes and make arrests for crimes that occur within their jurisdiction. There are a couple of exceptions. One is when the police officer is pursuing a suspect. For instance, if a police officer observes a crime occur in his/her county and the suspect runs or drives into the next county, that police officer can chase the suspect into the next county. The police officer cannot chase the suspect forever and should contact a police officer in the next county to take over, but the officer does not have to stop at the county line. Another exception is when exigent circumstances exist. These situations are rare and would almost never occur in a standard DUI case. The third exception is when two police departments have a predetermined agreement in place to assist each other. These agreements do take place in Florida, but they have to be set out in writing and the particular investigation and arrest have to comply with the terms of the agreement. Two law enforcement agencies cannot just agree to help each other allowing the respective police officers to go into the other counties and make arrests.
In a recent DUI case near Jacksonville, Florida, a police officer observed a suspect he thought was driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI). However, that police officer was occupied with another matter. He called a police officer from the neighboring county to investigate. The second officer came over, found the DUI suspect and ultimately arrested him for DUI.
The criminal defense lawyer filed a motion to dismiss the DUI case because the arresting officer did not have a legal basis to investigate the DUI case and make the arrest out of his jurisdiction. The state countered by showing the court that there was a mutual aid agreement between the two counties. However, that is not enough. There must be a specific agreement between the counties and the particular case must be one that is contemplated by the agreement. In this DUI case, the agreement discussed cases of emergencies, special events or other situations where the two police departments would assist each other. It did not cover a DUI case like the one at issue here. Therefore, the arrest of the defendant out of jurisdiction was illegal, and the DUI case was thrown out.