Preston Rock (not his real name) was charged in Okeechobee County with three felony charges:
conspiracy to introduce contraband, unlawful compensation for a public servant, and bribery. Rock
was arrested on warrants in February, 2015. All charges were dropped on 2/21/17.
What happened? On 4/12/14, Florida Department of Corrections (DOC) investigators converged
on the Okeechobee Correctional Institution (OCI) for a surprise inspection. Rock gave consent to
search his pickup truck, which was parked in the public parking area of OCI.
The pickup truck search uncovered approximately one kilo of loose tobacco, a pint of moonshine,
several cell phone batteries, a cell phone and a “flip” cell phone. Subsequent forensic examination
of the flip phone uncovered significant incriminating information relating to text messages and green
dot credit card codes.
DOC investigators theorized that Rock was involved in smuggling tobacco, batteries, and cell phones
into the OCI. Payments were made via “green dot” credit cards purchased by inmate associates and
family on the outside. Rock was subsequently arrested on multiple charges.
Rock’s first attorney recommended that he accept the State’s plea deal and a substantial prison term.
Rock located Okeechobee Criminal Defense Attorney Jeffrey H. Garland for a second opinion.
Attorney Garland identified a “Garrity” issue. See Garrity v. New Jersey, 385 U.S. 493 (1967).
DOC required employees, as a condition of employment, to “consent” to searches of their persons,
vehicles and effects, and to answer questions.
DOC employees are subject to sanctions, including termination, if they refuse to consent to allowing
searches and to giving statements. See §33-208.002-.003, Fla. Adm. Code.
Garland filed a motion to suppress alleging that Rock’s consent was legally coerced, as refusal to
give consent could result in the loss of employment. On 2/20/17, Circuit Judge Dan Vaughn agreed,
the consent having been legally coerced, that the motion to suppress should be granted. The State
dropped all charges on the following day.
Comment from an Okeechobee Criminal Defense Attorney
Public sector employees often have job conditions which require waiver of constitutional protections.
While such waivers may be effective for employment purposes, they may not be valid in relation to