Clay County police arrest the wrong man on theft charges

A man is suing the Clay County Sheriff’s Office, saying police should have known he was not the person they were looking for when they arrested him in a 2013 theft case.  The issue began with a Clay County Theft Case of a man caught trying to steal cologne, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The man was 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds, but it turns out gave police the name and ID of a different man, the newspaper reported. That man was six inches shorter and 70 pounds lighter and had reported his ID stolen to police, the newspaper reported. But when the real suspect didn’t show up for court, an arrest warrant was issued in the name of the man the suspect gave police.

The man went to police, tried to explain the mistake and prove that he wasn’t the guy, but officers wouldn’t listen. The man was promptly arrested and booked into the jail. Clay County Theft Charges were eventually dropped, but it took three months for the man to have his name cleared. This is the third time in the last two years that Clay County officers have arrested the wrong person in a criminal case. Police are supposed to have new policies and procedures in place to prevent this from happening, but this incident appears to have happened before the changes were made.

In many Clay County Misdemeanor Cases, instead of being immediately arrested and taken to jail, defendants are given a notice to appear in court. That’s what happened in this Clay County Theft Case. The defendant was caught with about $200 worth of cologne taken from a store, which would be petit theft, a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in the county jail. But, instead of giving police his real name and ID, he gave a different one. But, once the warrant was issued and the other man turned himself in to explain himself, police should have checked the warrant and arrest report, which would have told them they had the wrong person. It is human nature for people to try to explain themselves to police, especially when they are completely innocent as the man was in this Clay County Theft Case. But police don’t always listen and, in many cases, assume the person is lying and don’t think that they could be the ones who made a mistake.  There are checks and balances in our criminal justice system for this exact reason. Unfortunately, when mistakes like this happen, the most effective way to have the wrong righted is with a Clay County Criminal Defense Attorney. Once an arrest has been made, it’s often the defendant that has to prove his or her innocence to get out of jail – the exact opposite of how our system is supposed to work.

If you or a loved one needs a criminal defense attorney in Jacksonville or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm at (904) 365-5200 for a FREE CONSULTATION. Our Clay County Misdemeanor Crimes Attorney, Victoria “Tori” Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.