There have been an increasing number of arrests for contraband coming into jails. Many of these arrests are the direct result of improperly performed police “pat down” searches made at the time of arrest.
The arrestee is taken to jail against their will. The arrestee is told they have a right to remain silent.
The arrestee is then charged with possession of “contraband” at the jail. Such contraband should have been found, in most cases, by the arresting officer. In almost all cases, the arrestee charged with introduction of contraband is told that they failed to advise of the contraband – even though they
had been told they had a right to remain silent!
Troy Vanderwall (not his real name) was arrested on 6/17/15, while serving a jail sentence, for possession of a lighter. Vanderwall had been working as a welder on jail grounds. A lighter was found in his sock as he was re-entering the secure part of the jail.
The State picked up the charge as an introduction or possession of contraband on the grounds of a county jail in violation of Section 951.22. Vanderwall retained Attorney Jeffrey H. Garland, a St. Lucie violation of probation attorney, for his defense.
Attorney Garland reviewed Section 951.22. Turns out a “lighter” is not one of the prohibited items. The prohibited articles, generally, include the following: written or recorded communications, money, food or clothing, tobacco products, intoxicating beverages, drugs, firearms, dangerous
weapons and “any instrumentality of any nature that may be or is attempted to be used as an aid in effectuating or attempting to effect an escape from a county facility”.
As Section 951.22 is limited to the listed articles, Attorney Garland pointed out that a prosecution for the “lighter” was not authorized. The State agreed and dropped the charge on 12/2/15.
Section 951.23(10) makes it a misdemeanor of the second degree to knowingly violate posted jail rules “on two or more occasions”. While the St. Lucie County jail does classify a “lighter” as contraband, a single incident could not be prosecuted as a crime at all.
Most jail contraband cases occur “coming in” to the booking area. A strict reading of Section 951.22 would make possession of a wallet with money or candy or chewing tobacco felonies. Given that such articles are common, and not unlawful outside of a jail, the prosecution of folks for such trivial
offenses is difficult to comprehend.
An arrestee is at the whim of law enforcement officers when articles are found in the booking process. When the arrestee is charged with such crimes, he should immediately seek the assistance of competent counsel.