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Wrong teen charged after name mix-up

Despite the number of criminal defendants who are not brought to justice for their crimes, the ultimate injustice is bringing someone to justice who has not committed a crime. There is considerable debate over how often innocent people in New Jersey are arrested and prosecuted, but one thing is for certain; when it happens, it is terrible for the person and his or her family.

Such was the case for a teen in Florida who was mistaken for another person with his same name.

Acting on a description given by a young girl in the midst of a sexual assault investigation, police went to arrest teen at his home without showing the girl any pictures of her alleged assailant. Although he was 17 at the time of his arrest, he was charged as an adult and faced significant prison time.

The teen was shocked and appalled at the charges. He had a previous brush with law enforcement on drug charges, but he had never been investigated for sexual assault. It was not until his initial court appearance that the teen put the facts together and knew that he was the wrong person being charged. He called his mother from jail, who then contacted the victim and conducted a photo lineup. This process exonerated the accused teen.

We find this story important because authorities have specific processes they must follow in order to find the correct people before charging them with crimes. When these processes are not followed, innocent people can experience significant disruptions in their lives.

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