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04 Oct 2012

Punishable By Life Burglary Dropped Due To Justifiable Use of Force

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On October 17, 2006, JSH (not his real initials) was arrested for burglary of a dwelling during which a battery occurred and simple battery.  The burglary was enhanced to a maximum penalty of life in prison by virtue of the battery allegation.  Three days later, JSH retained Jeffrey H. Garland to represent him in connection with the matter.

The defense investigation established that JSH was 19 years of age at the time of the alleged offense.  He was arrested along with three of his friends, all of whom were young men of about the same age.

The investigation further established that the accused, along with his friends, had a pattern or practice of going to the home of a young lady.  She was the wife of a co-defendant, although at the time they were not living together.  The young lady was living in a mobile home in fort Pierce with her mother, who was not home at the time of the alleged incident.

The young lady had an abusive relationship with another man.  Upon arriving, the young lady’s husband promptly observed what had occurred to his wife.  The other man was still there.  Predictably, a fight ensued.

Police theorized that JSH was involved with a burglary, because he entered into the mobile home without consent.  The defense utilized photographs and the wife’s statements to establish that, in fact, JSH and the others had been invited into a covered screen room area attached to the mobile home.  The evidence showing that JSH and the others had consensually entered the dwelling was important to rebutting the claim of burglary.

In Florida, a charge of burglary requires proof of trespass.  There would be no trespass if a person had express or implied consent to enter onto property or premises.  In this situation, JSH had both express and implied permission to enter into the screened room area.  The screened room area was part and parcel of the mobile home.  Therefore, the evidence established that there was no trespass.  Without trespass, there could be no burglary.

The man who attacked the wife received minor injuries as a result of the encounter.  Police theorized that all of the young men in the group would be equally responsible for the battery – even though JSH was not involved in the actual violence.

In Florida, every person has a right to defend themselves and others from violent aggression.  The defense investigation established that the force used against the aggressor was reasonable under the circumstances.  Herein, the evidence established that the victim was in the process of beating the wife of one of the young men in JSH’s group.  The use of reasonable force was justified.

The State elected to drop all charges against JSH on December 22, 2006.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) issued a certificate of eligibility for expungement.  A petition seeking to expunge was granted on July 26, 2007 by the St. Lucie County circuit court.

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