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Can police make an arrest on church property

Saint Petersburg, FL |
Filed under: Civil rights

I am a pastor in the St. Petersburg, Fl. area and would like to know if I could give a person sanctuary in my church without police coming in and arresting them?

Attorney Answers 3


  1. While certain England common law locales did sanctuary before the King outlawed it, to offer sanctuary is in specific defiance of the law in the US.

    There have been recent changes to the federal law that allow for ministers who offer sanctuary to not be prosecuted. Whethere this is so in Florida, I do not know.

    Sometimes, in spite of a law, a person in violation of the law is given a brief refuge in a church and isn't apprehended. This is usually simple deferrence to the church, not really something that is required. And this largely depends on the type of crime committed.

    A violent felon, should he be granted sanctuary in a church, is likely to be arrested immediately because of the danger posed to the nearby neighbors or congregation. Same is true with illegal aliens that have been smuggling drugs. They will likely be arrested right away.

    Sanctuary cities have been in the news during the first 11 months of the Obama administraton. That debate is ongoing.

    Check with a Florida lawyer before you do anything that might endanger yourself or others in your congregation, though.


  2. I basically agree with the fine, in depth, answer given by Mr. Brinkmier. I suggest that you refrain from giving any potential felon sanctuary.

    Good luck and God bless.


  3. Speaking as an attorney practicing in civil rights and constitutional law, my two colleagues are correct. "Sanctuary" may have proven of some benefit in common law, but has no present applicability in American life. In other words, running to the nearest church or center of worship affords no protection for being apprehended by law enforcement.

    Derek Brett
    The Brett Law Firm, P.A.
    Orlando, Florida

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