Florida Criminal Defense and DUI Defense Blog

21Oct, 21

Search WarrantsI wanted to talk a bit about what everyone’s asking me about.-Brian Laundrie. Why wasn’t he arrested? Why didn’t the police talk to him? Why didn’t they put around-the-clock surveillance at his house?

Let’s talk about these, one at a time, and figure out what the law has to say about this.

First of all, we have Brian Laundrie returning to his family’s home on the Gulf Coast of Florida, driving a van that he and his now-late-girlfriend were living in. She was reported missing, but had not been found. And he arrived home.

Why wasn’t he arrested?

First of all, there was no crime. There was no evidence of any crime. In order to arrest a person, the police must have probable cause to believe that a crime was committed, and that this person committed it.

What is probable cause?

That’s a good question and there’s no good answer, because probable cause is poorly, if at all, defined in the law. But generally speaking, probable cause means reasonably reliable information that indicates that a specific crime was committed, and a specific person committed the crime.

This couple, at this point, as far as the police knew, had a recent history of domestic arguments and lack of tranquility, but no particular violence from either of them to the other.

So, we have a missing person. We have a couple who had been staying together, who may have simply split up.

The police didn’t have enough evidence to charge Mr. Laundrie with any crime. Additionally, we have the fact that he was in Florida, so we’re talking about what the Florida police could do.

Had there been an arrest warrant, the Florida police could have served the warrant on him. But at this point in time when he returned home, there was no warrant.

Now, we know that a warrant has been issued, charging him with using someone else’s bank card, in the days after his former girlfriend went missing. The speculation is, of course, that it was her bank card, and maybe it was. But that warrant was issued later and, in fact, Brain Laundrie was already gone by the time that warrant was issued.

So, the police had no authority to arrest him. Florida police, without a warrant from somewhere else, can only arrest a person for crimes committed in Florida. And there’s no evidence of any crime committed in Florida.

Why didn’t the police talk with him?

The police did apparently talk with him and his family initially, but they exercised their right to counsel. The Sixth Amendment provides that we’re all entitled to be represented by counsel, and even have counsel present when we talk to the police.

He and his family also appear to have exercised their Fifth Amendment right. The Fifth Amendment provides that nobody can be compelled to testify against themselves. And what that has been interpreted to mean, for hundreds of years, is that none of us have to talk to the police. We don’t have to answer questions. And our choosing not to talk to the police is not evidence of anything, certainly not in a court of law. We’re not talking about the court of public opinion here.

Brian Laundrie and his parents, for that matter, were well within their legal rights to retain counsel, and to have their counsel speak to the police on their behalf and let the police know they did not consent to be interviewed.

Why didn’t the police put around-the-clock surveillance on the Laundrie home, so that they could see exactly when, if ever, Brian Laundrie left, and where exactly he went?

The answer to that, frankly, is manpower. Again, we have a situation where, although our gut may have told us that a crime was committed, there was no actual evidence that a crime had been committed, much less that Brian Laundrie was the person who committed it.

Even after they found her body, it was an open question how she died. Up until the coroner announced that it was a homicide, it could just as easily have been a venomous snakebite, as they were hiking through the woods, together or separately. Also, had they separated, it may well have been, and it may prove to have been, someone else who killed her.

But, at the point in time when Mr. Laundrie appears to have left his parents’ home, there was no evidence that any crime had been committed. Now we have evidence that a crime has been committed. Now we have the medical examiner, having conducted an autopsy, saying not only is this a homicide, but this was a strangulation.

Strangulation certainly is an intentional crime, whether it’s first degree murder, second degree murder, some other degree murder, that really would depend on the law of the state where the crime was committed.

In Florida, the manhunt continues for Brian Laundrie, but it remains to be seen, if they find him, and if they find him alive, what, if anything, can he be charged with. What will the evidence support?

Attorney Mike Kessler
Written by: Attorney Mike Kessler

Attorney Kessler has been practicing criminal law in Florida for 30 years. He is recognized as is a leading authority on drunk-driving defense as well as a founding member of the Saint Lucie County Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and co-author of The DUI Book: Florida Edition, the definitive resource on DUI in Florida.

To speak with Mike, call 772-466-4900 or click here for a free consultation.

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