Getting to Not Guilty Despite Two Detectives’ Claims
Convicted sex offenders living in Florida are required to register and provide their residence address with their local sheriff’s office.
Florida law requires the probation department to confirm periodically that the address for those offenders who are on probation are both current and accurate.
Conversely, sheriff’s departments are mandated by Florida law to confirm periodically that the address of offenders who are not on probation are both current and accurate.
Recently, the St. Lucie Sheriff’s Office got that wrong.
Two St. Lucie detectives went to a Port St. Lucie man’s house to verify his address, even though the offender was on probation. Knowing they were not supposed to do this, he refused to provide proof that he lived there. Even though the detectives recognized him from the driver’s license photo they brought with them, they were not satisfied.
When the man turned to walk back to his house, one detective told him he was under arrest. She reached for his hand, and he pulled it away. He turned to run, and she chased. She tripped, fell and broke her ankle. The third detective on the scene arrived after the man had been subdued.
The first detective claimed he pushed her down. Her partner parroted that story. The man was charged with the crime of Aggravated Battery on a Law Enforcement Officer, a crime punishable by up to thirty years in prison!
At trial, the detective told the same story. So did her partner.
The defense brought out, during cross-examination of the third detective, that he was the one who wrote the police report, and that he wrote it that night. It was thorough. It was accurate. In writing it, he relied on what he was told, as he did not witness the injury.
He intended to rely on it himself, to refresh his memory as to the details. He expected other police to use it for the same purpose. He understood that the judge would rely on it in setting conditions of bond. He knew that the prosecutor would rely on it in preparing for trial. It was important to get it right, and he did. In fact, he testified, he stood by his report.
Nowhere in that thorough, accurate, complete and reliable report was there any mention of the accused pushing the detective down. The night of the incident, no one told the third detective that.
The paramedic, the emergency room nurse and the emergency room physician’s assistant all came to court to give evidence. Each of them brought a report, also written the night of the incident.
Each of their reports was prepared with the same motives as the detective’s report: to refresh their recollection later about the events of that night.
All three medical people testified that the detective told them she tripped and fell when she was chasing a suspect. Not one of them had any mention in their report that anyone had pushed her down.
The judge correctly instructed the jury that the man had no obligation to provide to the police what they asked for, because he was still on probation.
The attempt to arrest was, therefore, illegal. We all have the right to resist an unlawful arrest, so long as do not do so using violence.
The jury heard all of that evidence, and did the right thing.
The verdict on the charge of Aggravated Battery on a Law Enforcement Officer was Not Guilty.
State of Florida vs. Jeffery Cohen
Case No.: 2012-Cf-2408
St. Lucie County