Darnell Compton (not his real name) was arrested on 8/27/16 in Port St. Lucie for felony child neglect. Police had been notified that a 1-year old toddler had been left alone in a car. The car was parked outside of a Walgreens store at about 2:00 A.M. The child’s mother was also arrested for the same charge, plus several drug charges.
Mr. Compton retained Attorney Jeffrey H. Garland 10 days later. Garland immediately identified the primary problem as Compton’s DUI probation. Unless something was done, Compton would be charged with a violation of his misdemeanor probation (VOP) based on the felony arrest. Compton would be locked up on that VOP – unless was something was done – without bond.
Attorney Garland identified that felony child neglect required proof that the accused was a “caregiver” for the child. In this case, the child’s mother was the caregiver and the driver of the car. Compton had no relationship to the mother or the child, and had only been a passenger in the car. Compton was the best source of information that he was not the child’s caregiver.
Based on these circumstances, Attorney Garland, with Compton’s consent, made him available for a prosecutor interview. There was no immunity and no agreement. Compton appeared with Attorney Garland and answered all questions from the prosecutor. The felony charges against Compton were dropped three days later (on 9/12/16). This was a huge relief to Compton, but it only solved half of the problem. Compton was still under threat of a misdemeanor VOP.
Attorney Garland scheduled a bond hearing on the VOP before Judge Daryl Isenhower. At the 9/23/16 bond hearing, Compton again told his story, without immunity and with no agreement. Judge Isenhower released Compton on his own recognizance, but required “pretrial” supervision with a GPS monitor. While the pretrial conditions were annoying, they beat being locked up. It has been said that a bad day on pretrial release beats a good day in jail, every day of the week. The State moved to dismiss the VOP warrant 20 days later (on 10/13/16). All charges were dropped!
Freedom isn’t always “free”, nor is it easy. This case shows that preemptive action can avoid a prosecution and a VOP. Compton made the affirmative decision to go forward and tell his story. By going forward with no promises or immunity, Compton became a State witness. He secured an immediate nolle prosequi of the felony child neglect charge and, later, a dismissal of the VOP. The prosecutors made independent judgments that Compton’s testimony was consistent with the other evidence and with his innocence.