A homeless man spent a night in a Florida jail after being arrested for charging his cell phone at a public park.
According to the arrest report, a Sarasota Police Sergeant spotted Darren Kersey, 28, charging his cell phone at a public picnic shelter’s electrical outlet. The police sergeant arrested Kersey for misdemeanor theft of public utilities stating, “theft of city utilities will not be tolerated during this bad economy.”
Kersey was released the next day after a judge threw out the case against him. The judge found that the police sergeant had no legal justification for arresting Kersey. In other words, Kersey was not breaking the law.
While public utility theft is a crime, Kersey did not commit public utility theft.
Public utility theft involves a person taking advantage of public utilities without paying for them. Generally, this involves doing something more than using an electrical outlet made available to the public.
Everyone is entitled to use public property as long as they are not engaging in illegal activity. Sarasota has no law regarding the use of the public picnic areas or their electrical outlets. In fact, it is not uncommon for the homeless to use the outlets in the park to charge their cell phones.
Kersey’s arrest comes at an inopportune time. The city of Sarasota is facing serious scrutiny by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) over its treatment of the homeless and the poor.
If you have been charged with a crime or are under investigation for criminal activity, it is imperative that you consult with an experienced criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. Contact our San Diego Criminal Defense office at 619-239-2186 to setup an initial consultation.