Dana Morris, one of the most trusted and highly rated criminal defense lawyers in Panama City, Florida, answers some commonly asked legal questions:


1. As a criminal defense attorney, what is one common legal mistake that people make that you wish you could teach everyone?

     You do not have to give consent to a search of your vehicle by law enforcement.  Our 4th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects against unreasonable searches and seizures.  In the absence of strong evidence (probable cause), police need your permission to perform a search of you or your property.   You may believe that if you tell an officer that he/she can search your car, the officer really won’t take you up on the offer.   Perhaps it’s just a bluff by the officer to see if you will act as though you have something to hide.   Please be advised, they are not bluffing.  Most of the time when this question is asked, officers do not have probable cause to conduct a search.  If they had it, they would be busy searching your car, not spending their time asking you for your consent.

2. Practicing law in Bay County, what is your favorite resource to point people to for legal questions?

     There is absolutely no substitute for legal advice provided by a lawyer practicing in the area of law in question.  However, more and more these days, the clerk of courts websites in their respective counties here in Florida have created a substantial online presence that is helpful for frequently asked questions related to legal terms and procedure.  The Bay County Clerk of Courts website can be found here.

3. What is one legal myth that you’ve heard of and would like to dispel?

     Myth?  That law enforcement must read you your Miranda rights in order for the arrest to be valid.  It’s not true!  The two circumstances that must come together for a citizen’s Miranda rights to be triggered are for someone to be placed into custody and for that person to be asked questions about the suspected criminal activity. An officer can ask you questions to establish an individual’s identity without Miranda being triggered.  If you are placed in custody and an officer asks you nothing, Miranda is not triggered.  Likewise, if an officer asks a lot of questions about the criminal activity suspected but does not place you in custody, Miranda is not triggered.  So, what constitutes custody?  Custody is generally defined as occurring when a reasonable person would believe that they were not free to leave the officer’s presence.  Being asked to sit in a patrol car uncuffed, being cuffed, or answering questions from an officer whose tone and body language is aggressive in nature, can constitute “custody” for purposes of triggering Miranda.    

Everyone has rights!  We at the Morris Law Firm in Panama City, Florida, can help you defend yours.  We offer free consultations to discuss the details of your case.  We will guide you through the legal process every step of the way.  We are available 24 hours a day, so call now if you need us, (850) 257-5680.