Attorney general says officers

should be able to keep cars at home

Davie homeowners association is in a feud with patrolman over where to park vehicle.


Article Courtesy of The Sun Sentinel

By Joe Kollin
Published June 8, 2005


Florida Attorney General Charlie Crist said that if asked to give an opinion he would allow officers to park patrol cars in their driveways despite objections by homeowners associations.

"I feel pretty strongly about this," said Crist, the Republican who serves as the state's chief law enforcement officer.
Crist was reacting to a dispute in Carlton Ranches, a gated community of 46 houses in Davie. The community's association recently told Miami Beach Police Officer Kevin Millan not to leave his marked car in his driveway because it is a commercial vehicle, prohibited in the bylaws.

The association has threatened to file suit against him and has assessed each homeowner, including Millan, $350 to pay the cost of litigation.

The issue attracted Crist's attention for the same reason it has interested the Florida Fraternal Order of Police: Law enforcement officers throughout the state live in communities governed by private homeowners associations and take their assigned vehicles home.

"It makes a community safer to have a law enforcement presence right there in the driveway," Crist said. "Legally and from a common sense point of view, it is the right thing to do."

The attorney general issues hundreds of advisory opinions a year to local and state law enforcement agencies, city commissions and other government agencies. Although they don't have the force of a court order, they do carry weight.

So far, no government agency has asked Crist for an interpretation of how the law applies to the Davie case.

"But we stand at the ready to issue one," he said.

The only past opinion by the Attorney General's Office that touches on the issue was in 1974. The opinion was written for Mel Colman, then sheriff of Orange County, and holds that letting officers take home police cars serves a "valid public purpose."

Although the opinion doesn't discuss homeowners associations, Crist said it applies because it says that taking police cars home is public policy.

Crist hasn't determined whether the state can get involved in the private Davie dispute. The only government connection so far is that the homeowner association's attorney, Randall K. Roger, has said the board's action is based on the Davie code that defines police cars as commercial vehicles. But the Town Council last week disagreed and said it plans to clarify the code.

Based on the 1974 opinion, the bylaws may not matter, according to F. Blane Carneal, who represents Millan.

"Covenants do not supercede public policy," he said.

A lawsuit may be the only way to resolve the issue, Carneal said, but, "We'd rather not litigate. My clients would rather live in peace and harmony, but if the association brings an action, they will defend themselves."