Just so we’re all on the same page here, brandishing a weapon in Walmart is a crime regardless of whether or not prosecutors choose to charge it. In this case, no formal charges were filed against a defendant who brandished a .40-caliber semi-auto Smith & Wesson in Walmart after another customer asked him to wear a mask. The incident was caught on surveillance video. While the gun-brandisher was arrested, prosecutors declined to pursue charges against him.
Now, the .40-caliber shopper has turned around and filed a lawsuit against West Palm Beach police and the other shopper for the incident. The sheriff’s department is being accused of “malicious prosecution” and “defamation”.
Social media posts
Police officers should not be allowed on social media. There is an argument to be made that no one belongs on social media, but police especially should not be on social media. Why not? Well, police officers think that everyone they arrest is guilty of whatever crime they say they’re guilty of. Police officers, at least in their own minds, are judges, juries, and executioners of punishment. By the time someone sits them down in front of Facebook, the case is already over for them. Sure, they’ll be called to testify, but by then, the case is a foregone conclusion.
Enter reality. In America, you are innocent until proven guilty. While the police had surveillance footage of the incident and brandishing a weapon in public is a crime, they smeared the guy’s name all over social media and made him look like a completely unhinged idiot. While they surely had good reasons for doing so, it taints the prosecution, makes it impossible to get a fair trial, and is, for all intents and purposes, a punishment unto itself.
While brandishing a registered weapon in public is not a great idea, and will usually result in a crime, as long as you don’t fire the weapon, you’re not going to face substantial prison time. Essentially, you’re being punished for intentionally inflicting fear in a public place. Otherwise, the crime is relatively victimless.
In this case, the police went on social media and made a mockery of the guy thinking that they could both do that and then also prosecute for the charges. However, it is not within the purview of police to punish criminals. That’s the jury and court’s job. Since the defendant was already punished for the crime, the prosecutors likely felt that a defense attorney would make the case about the police’s conduct. They were probably right. They dropped the charges figuring the defendant had been humiliated enough for one victimless crime.
Now, the defendant, sensing that he has the upper hand, has turned around and filed a lawsuit against the sheriff’s department accusing them of defamation and malicious prosecution. However, the police were within their rights to arrest and charge the man with a crime, so it looks like he’s overplaying his hand. When deciding on his personal injury lawsuit, jurors will ask themselves, did he deserve to be arrested and face potential criminal charges for brandishing a gun in Walmart? Their answer will probably be, ‘Yes’.
Talk to a West Palm Beach Criminal Defense Attorney
Police and prosecutors face sanctions when they taint a case by making outrageous commentary on social media and assuming the guilt of a defendant before a jury has heard the charges. In these cases, charges may be dropped by the prosecutor for how the situation was handled. The West Palm Beach criminal attorneys at the Skier Law Firm, P.A. may be able to negotiate such a deal. Call today to learn more.