It's a familiar sight if you follow the news in Central Florida: Someone accused of a crime is led in handcuffs through a gantlet of reporters and cameras into a patrol vehicle waiting to drive the suspect to the county jail.

Defense lawyers say these events are — at best — a way for police to show off a successful arrest at the expense of the defendant's presumption of innocence.

At worst, critics say, they're an attempt to entice suspects to say something on camera they'll later regret at trial.

Though the practice is commonly called a "perp walk," officials with the Orlando Police Department and Orange County Sheriff's Office bristle at the term.

However, both agencies regularly invite Orlando's news organizations, including the Orlando Sentinel, to attend prisoner transfers in high-profile cases.

"We do not condone and do not participate in the deliberate posing or parading of any arrestee," said sheriff's spokesman Capt. Angelo Nieves.

Said OPD spokesman Sgt. Jim Young: "We do not do perp walks."

'I want my lawyer'

Demetrius Patterson, accused of shooting a police officer while fleeing arrest, was led out of OPD headquarters July 23 in a hospital gown, hopping on his left foot due to a bullet wound in his right foot. He was immediately surrounded.

One reporter asked: "Why were you going to shoot a cop?"

"Get these cameras out my face," Patterson said. "I want my lawyer. I ain't did nothing. Period."

If that had been a police interview, Patterson's response would have signaled its end. Instead, reporters kept asking questions until the patrol-car door closed.

According to Orlando defense lawyer Lyle Mazin, whatever a suspect says to a reporter is likely to be admissible in court — and potentially damaging.

"The most simple statement can annihilate a defense for a defendant," Mazin said.

Said David Fussell, another Orlando defense attorney: "It's a way for law enforcement to circumvent the defendant's Fifth Amendment rights. ... To me, it's an abuse of process."

Patterson didn't incriminate himself on camera. Others have. Hours after he carried out a shooting spree at the Gateway Center building in downtown Orlando, Jason Rodriguez was asked by a reporter why he did it.

"They left me to rot," Rodriguez said of his former employer there. Prosecutors later used that statement to counter Rodriguez's insanity defense.

Perp walks don't "always end up completely respecting the defendants' right to be presumed innocent in a manner that I wish it did," State Attorney Jeff Ashton acknowledged.

However, he added: "The public and the media don't generally give people the presumption of innocence anyway."

Not illegal