Florida Criminal Defense and DUI Defense Blog

20Oct, 21

Search WarrantI wanted to talk a bit about Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie.

It’s been on the news a lot, in local and national headlines, specifically here in Florida. Miss Petito had relatives here in the Vero Beach area. She was living in the Western part of Florida in North Port.

During the beginning of the investigation, the big questions a lot of people were asking were “Why isn’t Brian Laundrie cooperating? Why isn’t he talking to the police? Why isn’t he helping the police (whether it was the police in Wyoming or the police in Florida)? Why has he remained silent? Why have his parents remained silent?”

And also later on, there were questions about domestic violence and what officers do and their discretion with domestic violence phone calls.

So, why didn’t he do anything?

The main reason is Miranda. We’ve all seen the warnings given out on Cops and Law and Order and other TV shows. You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you. You have the right to an attorney. If you don’t have an attorney, one will be appointed for you.

The main part of that is you have the right to remain silent and anything you say can and will be used against you.

No one knows where Mr. Laundrie is. And when she was missing, a lot of my non-legal friends asked, “Why couldn’t he just show where they were?” Well, the police, in their warning, they don’t say, “Anything you say can and will be used against you, unless you have good intentions.”

They tell you flat-out, regardless of your intention, they’re going to use it against you. So, that’s probably why his attorney advised him to not say anything. I’m not sure if his parents have the same attorney as he did, but more than likely the counsel for the parents said the same thing, “Don’t say anything, because you don’t know how it’s going to be interpreted in the eyes of the law, and how it’s going to be interpreted within the media.”

The court of public opinion and the court of law are very, very different. In the court of public opinion, you’re guilty until proven innocent. And in the court of law, you’re innocent until proven guilty.

So, why didn’t the police just barge into his house and get what they needed or go into her car (it was her car, not his car)? The Fourth Amendment. It’s plain and simple. You need a warrant for any search and seizure of your person or your property.

The van was at his parents’ home. He had possession of the van, even though it was hers on paper. He was the one driving it. He had some sort of possession of it, with his personal belongings (toiletries, clothing). And they lived in it for a while, so it is considered his home, and his home is protected within the Fourth Amendment right.

Same thing with his parents’ home. The police need probable cause to enter, and there was no probable cause to enter his parents’ home while she was missing.

Fast forward a couple of days when, unfortunately, her body was found, the police did obtain a warrant only for his belongings. I don’t know the contents of the warrant, but more than likely, it was limited to their common space – the bedroom that they were sleeping in, rather than his parents’ bedroom or other common areas that are mostly used by his parents, rather than Brian Laundrie’s and Miss Petito’s.

Another question that a lot of my friends have asked is about the issues of domestic violence. There was a 911 call in regards to someone seeing him slap her. The body camera video that the Wyoming police department put forward for the public described some sort of violence in their relationship. But the police decide not to pursue it. Police have that discretion in Wyoming.

In Florida, if someone gets a call for a battery, whether it’s domestic or not, someone is going to jail. So, maybe the Wyoming laws have broader discretion with domestic batteries, and I think the officers also mentioned mental health, and just wanted to separate the two, not thinking it was going to escalate.

So, just going back to all the things that should’ve, would’ve or could’ve, at the end of the day, Mr. Laundrie asserted his rights. He chose to assert his rights before Miss Petito was found. And after, we don’t know where he is.

The warrant that is out for him doesn’t involve her passing. It involves finances, similar to Al Capone. Al Capone wasn’t arrested for all of the violent things that he did. He was arrested for tax evasion and tax laws. Similarly here, that’s kind of how the Feds are trying to get in touch with Mr. Laundrie, because he is still a person of interest in the death of Miss Petito.

So, whether or not he’s found, that’s going to be a question for law enforcement, whether he’s in Florida, North Carolina in the Appalachians or the Great Beyond. Only time will tell.

At the end of the day, why he didn’t talk to the police, why didn’t the police barge in, why were his parents silent and why weren’t they forced to cooperate – all boils down to the Constitution of the United States of America. Everyone has a right to an attorney. You have the right to remain silent. You have the right to not incriminate yourself. And you’re allowed to seek counsel to assert those rights towards law enforcement.

Law enforcement officers, on the other end, did their job. They applied for the warrant when they had the information to do so, and continued on with their investigation.

So, only time will tell what to see what other rights and Constitutional assertions Mr. Laundrie will make, and what Constitutional applications the government will make in regards to their case against him.

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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