Florida teen wrongfully detained in sexual assault case

A Florida teenager was arrested and spent 35 days in jail before it became clear that he had been mistaken for someone else with the same first and last name. The 17-year-old high school student was arrested for sexual assault of a person under the age of 12. This is a very serious criminal allegation and could result in years behind bars as well as a permanent label as a sex offender. The young man said that he was horrified by the accusation when it was first made.

The Florida high school student realized the mistake when he was finally presented with papers detailing the charges that listed someone with the same first and last, but different middle name. The mistake was perpetuated by the fact that police failed to show the victim of a photo of the man they arrested so she could confirm that was her attacker. Proper protocols usually require a lineup or other visual identification along with various other steps that would have prevented the unlawful arrest and detention.

The records of the improperly arrested man are being expunged, although it is doubtful that expungement will undo all of the damage of the wrongful arrest and imprisonment. Any time someone is accused of a crime, particularly a sex crime, the public may look upon them differently even if they are shown to be innocent. In this case it is important that those responsible for this potentially life-changing mistake be held accountable. A spokesperson for the Sheriff’s department said that they are investigating in the incident and punishing the supervisors and officers involved.

Source: Florida Times-Union, “Name mix-up in sexual battery case sends wrong Clay County teen to jail for 35 days,” Topher Sanders, Feb. 24, 2014.