A Florida appeals court recently took up a unique case about a fairly common occurrence: a call to the Department of Children and Families ending in an arrest.
A defendant was charged with battery on a law enforcement officer and resisting an officer with violence, stemming from an incident in his backyard in Santa Rosa County. His wife had called the Department of Children and Families earlier in the day, saying that she feared for the safety of herself and her five-year-old child. Although DCF officials would normally respond to the call, they requested police assistance because of DCF’s previous history with the defendant. DCF had been called to the house multiple times, according to the court, and he had threatened to harm them. During the latest call, the court said the defendant wife told DCF he said he’d dismember them if they entered his home.
Here’s how the court described what the cops and a DCF employee encountered when they went to the house: “The home was a fortress. [The defendant] had erected a number of barriers, including a sharp, padlocked, picket-style fence around the front yard. He had equipped the home with customized locking doors and opaque, inoperable windows.”
The defendant appeared behind a fence in the yard but went back inside when the cops said they were there for a welfare check. He then ordered his wife out of the house and refused to answer phone calls. The officers said his wife had fresh bruises. She told them that he’d said she would never see her child again and had locked an iron bar across the door when she walked out.
That’s when police called the SWAT team in. The defendant – now pacing in and out of the house into the backyard – refused to respond to the SWAT officers, who said they wanted to check on the child’s safety. SWAT officers then shot him with foam bullets and scaled the fence to keep him from returning to the house. The defendant fought with the officers and was eventually detained. He was convicted of battery on a law enforcement officer and resisting an officer with violence.
Affirming the convictions on appeal, the First District said the officers were justified in entering the backyard.
“The uncertainty of the child’s location coupled with [the defendant’s] evasiveness provided an objectively reasonable basis for the officers to believe that the child was in danger and to enter the home without a warrant to secure the child’s safety,” the court said. “Allowing a five-year-old child to remain in a fortified home with a hostile and potentially violent aggressor with access to multiple weapons has the potential for serious consequences, prompting the need for an on-the-spot judgment based on incomplete information.”
Although this particular case revolves around an out of the ordinary and almost cinematic situation, police officers come into contact with all kinds of people every day. If you or a loved one has been charged with a crime in Florida, it is essential that you seek the advice and counsel of an experienced defense lawyer. Clearwater domestic violence attorney Will Hanlon is a seasoned lawyer who fights aggressively on behalf of clients charged with a wide range of crimes. Call our offices at (727) 897-5413 or contact us online to speak with Mr. Hanlon about your case.
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