Street Justice Scenario Ended With No Charges, Indicates Lakeland Criminal Defense Attorney
Lakeland, FL (Law Firm Newswire) November 14 , 2013 – Street justice rarely has a good ending. This case is no exception.
“In this reported case, two people chased a 17-year-old boy, whom they mistook for a burglar, down an alley in Palm Beach. The young man was allegedly threatened with a metal baseball bat, nearly run over with a vehicle, and was told his wallet and keys would be confiscated,” explained Thomas Grajek, a Lakeland criminal defense attorney.
As things turned out, the 17-year-old was innocent, but the two chasing and threatening him did not know that at the time. They were handed felony charges, but ultimately did not face prosecution for several reasons, one of which related to the right, in Florida, to employ non-deadly force to defend property. The couple were operating under that right, even though they had the wrong person in their sights and they did what they did under the good-faith impression that the boy had committed a crime. “No one seems to be able to answer the question of what would have happened if the innocent boy had been seriously harmed or killed,” Grajek added.
This case raises several issues: how far can property crime victims go by taking justice into their own hands and how is the principle of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ upheld in situations like this? While the police say it is never a good idea to participate in vigilante justice, the law that says people may defend their property seems to be at odds with what may happen in reality.
The idea of a citizen’s arrest is alive and well in all parts of the nation, but it is an action that can spell disaster for the person attempting to make such an arrest. They may well end up being charged with false imprisonment, battery or something else. It should also go without saying that a citizen attempting to determine someone’s guilt is not a good idea either.
“Many crimes scenes are not what they appear to be and the innocence or guilt of a suspect may not be resolved until all the evidence in is and analyzed. The young boy in the Palm Beach incident nearly got beaten for no reason, other than someone thought he was guilty,” said Grajek. State laws dealing with the defense of property are often open to various interpretations, which means prosecutors may treat each case differently, even within the same state. Obvious cases of self-defense are one thing. Other cases, which may fall into a grey area, are another.