On May 6, 2007, PG (a 36-year-old veteran with a 40% disability) and his mother, YPM, were arrested outside a restaurant in Jensen Beach, Florida. PG was charged with two counts of battery. His mother was charged with resisting arrest without violence. The arresting deputy made these arrests without so much as asking PG and YPM what had occurred.
Four days later, PG and YPM retained Jeffrey H. Garland. The defense investigation established that PG, YPM, a disabled adult and two friends had gone to dinner. On their way out the door, a group of young people initiated a rude and degrading encounter with the group of diners. Words were passed, but at that point, nothing happened. PG, YPM and their group walked into the parking lot and got into two separate cars.
As PG and YPM were leaving the parking lot, their car was struck by a heavy object. PG stopped to investigate. At that time, PG was confronted by a group of young men and women who emerged from the darkness. His mother was in the car, the others were in the separate car which was closely following. At this point, members of the gang began to physically attack PG. During this attack, PGs glasses were knocked from his face, and he was hit over the head with a chair. PG actively defended himself with sufficient success to drive the attackers away.
YPM called to report the incident to the police, so that an appropriate investigation could be initiated.
Martin County deputies responded to the scene. Some of the deputies cordially interacted with PG and his mother. The arresting deputy, however, never spoke to PG and YPM. Instead, the arresting deputy spoke only to elements of the gang that had viciously attacked in an unprovoked manner.
Based upon this one-sided and false information, the investigating deputy placed both PG and YPM under arrest, neither of whom had ever been arrested before. After bonding out the following day, PG and YPM initiated an internal affairs complaint based upon the false arrest. The Martin County Sheriffs Office whitewashed the complaint, finding that the arresting deputy did nothing wrong. This disturbing inaction by the Martin County Sheriffs Office was taken despite the sworn statements of the witnesses which corroborated that PG had been attacked. At the very least, PG was illegally arrested for a misdemeanor which did not occur in an officers presence.
Attorney Garland argued that, under Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, throwing a heavy object at an occupied vehicle constitutes a violent felony for which self defense is appropriate. The defense maintained that PG was fully justified in the use of self defense. He had been hit over the head with a chair. His glasses had been knocked from his face. His shirt had been ripped from his back, and he had been forced to the ground. The melee ended only when someone yelled that the police were coming.
When the deputy arrested PG, his mother tried to explain what had occurred. The arresting deputy, at that point, did not even want to hear what had happened, so he placed YPM under arrest for resisting without violence.
The defense maintained that Section 776.013(3), Florida Statutes, provided a complete right to self defense under these circumstances:
A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity, and who is attacked in any place where he or she has a right to be, has no duty to retreat, and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force, if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another, or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.
In this case, the deputy arrested PG for misdemeanors which had not occurred in his presence. The arrest was illegal under Florida law, because there was no warrant. In fact, Section 776.032(2), Florida Statutes, states that a person is immune from criminal prosecution when using lawful self defense of himself, his property or others. It is amazing that the deputy initiated the arrest without a warrant and without at least interviewing PG and the witnesses. It is even more amazing that the deputy would arrest a witness for simply trying to provide information regarding the lawful use of self defense under Florida law.
Initially, the prosecutors failed to see the righteousness of the defense position. In the end, after the defense declared ready for trial, the prosecutors elected to drop all charges on August 13, 2007.