An 18-year-old Florida high school student was behind bars for more than a month after police arrested him on suspicion of sexual assault. He was finally released after 35 days behind bars when he was finally presented with the charging documents and he noticed that the suspect in the case had a different middle name than him.
Initial inquiries revealed that police did not follow proper procedures to make sure that they had arrested the correct person, including failing to show the victim photos of the suspects so that she could point out the person who attacked her. There were multiple boys in the area fitting the description of the assailant and two that shared the same first and last name, leading to the wrongful arrest of an innocent party.
The officers involved in the arrest have been suspended pending a full investigation. The sheriff told reporters that the policies are in place to prevent exactly this situation and that officers were wrong to ignore those policies.
A wrongful arrest can have a serious impact on a person’s life, even after they have been released and have set the record straight. Time spent in jail means time away from work or school, both of which can impact long term employment prospects. It also means time away from family and confusion by friends and family about the allegations which can lead to damage to one’s reputation. This is why thoseaccused of a crime must fight to defend their innocence even in the face of harsh police actions.
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.