|Arcimboldo, Fire, 1566
What would you do while waiting for firefighters to arrive as a fire attacks your home? You’d likely do exactly what a Tampa Bay Florida man did recently when he tried to stop the fire at his home from spreading to other homes by dousing it with a hose as he waited for firefighters.
Clearwater Criminal Defense Attorneys would agree that you have a right to defend your home from fires.
Maybe home owners should also have the right to defend their home from overzealous Pinellas Park Officers. Rather than help put out the fire, the officers bravely shot the home owner trying to stop the flames with a taser as described in press reports as follows:
“It was wrong… I was fighting a fire. I wasn’t fighting police. I thought they were here to help me. Instead, they hurt me.”
Police said they can sympathize with the stress Jensen was under; however, he put himself and officers in danger when he refused to back down from fighting the fire.
Clearly neither the man nor the officers were in immediate danger as he hosed down his home. In fact hosing the house reduced the danger to the officers and to the neighbors. The officers knew they were not witnessing any crime such as arson, so in Florida the man could lawfully resist the officers as long as he used no violence.
Without any immediate danger the officers were attempting to exercise authority which they did not have. No one must obey an officer who acts outside of his authority. But even if the officers believed there was danger and had acted within their authority to stop the man from hosing his home, use of a taser in that situation was far more force than was required under the circumstances.
There have been 65 taser deaths in Florida caused by law enforcement officers, whose job should be to defend us and our homes. Clearwater Criminal Defense Lawyers would argue that using a taser on the homeowner was irresponsible; the officers should be trained to use this dangerous weapon only against violent criminals when there is no other reasonable option.
How do firefighters determine if a fire that destroys property is caused by accident or arson? Often the initial investigation and fact finding of firefighters leads law enforcement to make an arrest on arson charges. If an arson investigation is moving forward contact a Clearwater Criminal Defense Attorney familiar with arson investigations and prosecutions as soon as possible to make certain that the process is fair and that any evidence of an accidental fire is not destroyed or mislaid.
|Joseph Wright, Cottage on Fire, 1787
A recent arson arrest of the owner of a Gulfport hardware store in Tampa Bay Florida gives insight into how arson investigations are conducted and into how a good lawyer could mount possible defenses. According to press reports the fire investigators came to a conclusion that the fire was an arson and not an accident based on the following factors:
- The fire had multiple areas of origin. Typically an accidental fire would have only one area of origin. For example an electrical fire would come from one failed circuit.
- The fire spread rapidly. This reason is not very strong for a hardware store as one would expect the store to have many paints, solvents and flammable material which would make this blaze have a faster and more intense burn rate than others.
- There is surveillance video which law enforcement claims is an indicia of guilt, but has not been further explained.
- Though not in press reports one assumes the investigation made factual determinations as to whether the property was insured and how the on-going business was doing financially as a possible motive for arson.
It’s often difficult to be certain of guilt in arson cases. A New Yorker article Trial by Fire told of a gruesome Texas arson case where the Defendant was found guilty, sentenced to death and executed for arson murder yet was likely innocent. What went wrong? From the beginning arson investigators jumped to easy assumptions that included tainted expert testimony at trial, which is why you want a Clearwater Criminal Lawyer defending you if you’re investigated for arson or any other crime.
The United States Supreme Court this morning granted cert in an interesting criminal law case that will determine the future of criminal law in Tampa Bay, Florida, especially when a Court is confused (just blame the attorneys) as to the elements of the charged offense. At the close of the prosecution’s dull case during a trial, a St. Petersburg Criminal Defense Lawyer will ask, well beg really, the trial court for what is known as a directed verdict or judgment of acquittal (JOA).
The Supreme Court will look at a case where the trial court issued a JOA at the close of the prosecution’s case, but the trial court misapplied or misunderstood the elements of the offense in granting the Defense motion. The prosecution wants to retry the Defendant, damn them, so the Supreme Court must determine if a retrial by the prosecution is barred on double jeopardy grounds even though the JOA was granted by the court on misunderstood elements of the charged offense (go ahead, blame the lawyers for confusing an honest judge).
The elements of a criminal offense are the facts that must be proven to sustain a verdict. Life is so unfair, as our Judges in Tampa Bay, Florida know all too well the elements and even add a few now and then no matter how much a Clearwater Criminal Defense Lawyer tries to confuse, spin or alter the law.
Having been a prosecutor and a defense attorney it seems to me that a directed verdict should be final as it’s unfair to try the Defendant twice on the same set of facts.
|A Lawyer argues for a JOA
Here are some of the facts of the case: Lamar Evans was charged by the state of Michigan with arson or “burning other real property” for his role in starting a fire in a vacant house. At the conclusion of the prosecutions’ case his lawyer moved for a directed verdict, arguing –apparently with the sly defense attorney’s fingers crossed – that a necessary element of the burning of other real property is that the building was not a dwelling, and that the prosecution’s evidence proved that the building burned in his case was a dwelling.
The court agreed, granting defendant’s motion. The state appealed and the Michigan Supreme Court held that the trial court was mistaken — the prosecution was not required to prove that the building was not a dwelling. And under these specific circumstances, the court held that if the trial court grants a defendant’s motion for a directed verdict on the basis of an error of law, an error that did not resolve any factual element of the charged offense — the trial court’s ruling does not constitute an acquittal for the purposes of double jeopardy and retrial is therefore not barred. Evans v. Michigan, No. 11-1327.