As a former prosecutor and now as a criminal defense attorney, I have a unique perspective on balancing a community's need for safety and security against each person's right to exercise their individual freedoms, unencumbered by overzealous policing. As with so many aspects of the law, police work involves balancing these sometimes competing interests. On one hand, as people living in a community, our individual interests may sometimes take a backseat to the greater needs of the community. On the other hand, we each have the right to live our lives as we see fit. Just as this balancing act takes place in cities throughout the United States, The Villages is no different.
As a resident of The Villages, you may have wondered whether you forfeit any rights by deciding to live here. Perhaps you're curious whether The Villages has its own police department, who you should call in case of an emergency, or what police department and court has jurisdiction over residents of The Villages. These are important questions that not only impact your safety, but also determine what law enforcement agency and court has jurisdiction if you find yourself facing criminal charges.
Who has jurisdiction in "The Villages"?
While The Villages has its own EMS and Fire Department, The Villages does not have its own police department. Instead, police services are provided by the Marion County Sheriff’s Department, the Sumter County Sheriff’s Department, the Lake County Sheriff’s Department, and the Lady Lake Police Department.
Each of these law enforcement agencies oversees large territories that include, but are not limited to The Villages. In addition to serving The Villages, law enforcement officers from the Marion County Sheriff’s Department, the Sumter County Sheriff’s Department, the Lake County Sheriff’s Department, and the Lady Lake Police Department respond to calls from other parts of their respective jurisdictions. Depending on where in The Villages a call originates from and which agency responds, a crime might be charged under a different set of laws, served by a different court, and subject to different judges depending on which law enforcement agency responded to the call.
Why is jurisdiction important?
Jurisdiction establishes the court that oversees a case and, to some extent, which set of laws may apply. For example, if a Lady Lake Police Officer responds to a call and charges someone with a crime, that officer would likely charge a resident of The Villages under a Lady Lake criminal code or ordinance, whereas a Sumter County Sheriff responding to the same call might charge someone under similar Florida state criminal statute.
Depending on which law enforcement agency responded to the call or where the alleged crime took place, a defendant might be summoned to appear in Sumter County, Marion County, or Lake County.
What is jurisdiction?
Jurisdiction is simply the power to make legal decisions and enforce judgments. If a law enforcement agency or court does not have jurisdiction over a particular person, geographic area, or activity, the court or law enforcement agency does not have the legal authority to make or enforce decisions or rulings.
Who do I call if I have a law enforcement problem in The Villages?
The overlapping jurisdiction between Lake County, Marion County, Sumter County, and Lady Lake may make it difficult to decide who to call if you have a problem that requires the intervention of law enforcement. Usually a 9-1-1 call should suffice; however, because of the overlapping jurisdiction and the large territory each of these law enforcement agencies covers, response times may be slow.
What should I do if I believe a police officer over-stepped his or her bounds or violated my rights?
If you believe a law enforcement officer over-stepped his or her bounds, you may have a claim for a violation of your civil rights.
At a minimum, if you were charged with a crime and you believe the arresting officer was behaving inappropriately, you may have some leverage to have your case dismissed or to negotiate a better plea agreement. Each case is unique, so it is important that you contact an experienced central-Florida criminal defense attorney immediately.
What should I do if I’ve been charged with a crime in The Villages?
If you have been charged with a crime in The Villages, first and foremost, remember that you have rights, including the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney.
If you have been charged with a crime in The Villages, regardless of the law enforcement agency, do not say anything to the arresting officer. More often than not, you will not be able to talk your way out of a citation. Better to not say anything rather than risk the possibility of inadvertently saying something that could be used to incriminate you. Ask to speak to an attorney. After you have asserted your right to counsel, do not say anything else about the alleged crime until your attorney gets there. Do not talk to other people in jail, and do not talk to law enforcement agents. Remember, “Anything you say can and will be used against you.”
Does The Villages have its own police force?
The Villages does not have its own police force. While it does have its own fire department and EMS, The Villages is patrolled by law enforcement officers from Lake County, Marion County, Sumter County, and the Lady Lake Police Department.
The Lady Lake Police Department is currently undergoing a re-accreditation process that requires compliance with approximately 260 standards that relate to life, health, and safety issues. If you have questions or would like to offer comments about the Lady Lake Police Department, you can write to: CFA, P.O. Box 1489, Tallahassee, Florida 32302, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
If I’m charged with a crime in The Villages, where would I go for court?
If you are charged with a crime in The Villages, you may need to go to a different court depending on which law enforcement agency charged you with a crime.
When I call the police in The Villages, they seem unresponsive. Why is that?
Law enforcement in The Villages may seem unresponsive because law enforcement agencies do not only cover The Villages. They must also cover their respective, relatively large territories.
If you have questions about criminal cases in The Villages, or if you have been charged with a crime by the Marion County Sheriff, the Lake County Sheriff, the Sumter County Sheriff, or the Lady Lake Police Department, do not delay. Contact attorney Jody L. Fisher today. You can reach us at (352) 503-4111, or complete our online form.