According to a recent article in the Orlando Sentinel, Orange County prosecutors have sought the arrest of unwilling witnesses to criminal cases more often over the past few years than all other Central Florida counties combined.
Although Florida law allows prosecutors to seek the arrest of reluctant witnesses, the practice is typically only used as a last resort for serious crimes like murder. However, the Orange-Osceola State Attorney’s Office has used such methods to compel witnesses to attend trials for lesser crimes, like drug distribution, fleeing and eluding, battery, burglary, and even criminal mischief.
The data indicates that the prosecutors in Orange County obtained arrest warrants for thirty-two witnesses in the years between 2013 and 2015 (inclusive). Ten witnesses were ultimately arrested, some remaining in custody for up to two weeks. In contrast, prosecutors in Volusia, Flagler, Putnam, and St. Johns counties were granted a total of four arrest warrants for witnesses. Lake, Marion, Citrus, Sumter, and Hernando counties obtained a total of one such warrant. The next most prolific county was Brevard, where state’s attorneys obtained nine warrants. Data was not available for Seminole, Osceola, Miami-Dade, Hillsborough, or Pinellas counties.
At the present time the Orange-Osceola State Attorney’s Office is defending itself against two lawsuits regarding witness arrests in separate incidents. The issue gained wider attention earlier this year after former Orange-Osceola State Attorney’s Office attorney Nicole Pegues pled guilty to violating attorney conduct and was formally reprimanded by the Florida Bar.
The Law Offices of Bjorn Brunvand have been representing people charged with capital murder, felony drug charges, drunk driving, government fraud, and white-collar crimes for over a quarter century. Contact our office today to discuss your Tampa Bay-area state or federal charges.