Charges Dismissed as Florida Justice Center Represents Four Arrested for Recording Police Under Unconstitutional Miami Beach Law
Prosecutors drop all charges in arrest under illegal Miami Beach law. FLJC vows to continue fighting constitutionality of ordinance.
Miami Beach, FL (May 19, 2022) –
All charges against four of thirteen people arrested under a Miami Beach law criminalizing recording the police were dismissed after being represented by Florida Justice Center. Miami Beach Ordinance 70-8, enacted last year, has been used exclusively to arrest Black men and women who were filming police officers in public areas. Florida Justice Center, the state’s only legal aid organization to focus on criminal law, is leading the charge to have this ordinance declared unconstitutional.
Enacted in 2021 by the City of Miami Beach in a unanimous vote, the law was almost immediately abused. After a Rolling Loud concert, Miami Beach Police arrested thirteen people: only Black men and women, most of whom were tourists. After media coverage and public outcry, enforcement of the law was halted but commissioners refused to take it off the books. This means the law can still be enforced at the will of the police.
Florida Justice Center volunteered to represent all of those arrested. Four people accepted the offer for free criminal defense representation. Yesterday, all charges were dismissed. In case after case, the prosecution chose not to move forward with charges immediately before a judge was to hear Florida Justice Center and Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyer motions to declare the law unconstitutional on grounds it violates the First Amendment.
“We learned all too well with the murder of George Floyd how important it is to allow citizens to record police encounters. We need to hold officers accountable for their actions and having unbiased video footage is one way to do that,” said Florida Justice Center Executive Director Jonathan Bleiweiss.
Three officers have already been arrested for battery against several of the people they charged under this law. Its important to consider the use of cell phone, surveillance, and body camera footage was the determining factor for prosecutors in filing charges. Were it not for these recordings, officers would not have been held accountable for alleged abuses.
Florida Justice Center calls on the City of Miami Beach to repeal this law and for legislators to ensure that the right of people to record police encounters is preserved.
Read the Miami Herald article by David Ovalle here: https://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/crime/article261518637.html
ABOUT FLORIDA JUSTICE CENTER
Florida Justice Center is the state’s only legal aid organization dedicated to helping people with justice-involvement. Authorized by the Florida Supreme Court, FLJC works to lower the effects of an arrest through free and low-cost legal services, as well as connections to community service providers.
With a mission to empower individuals by providing legal support, community education, and removing barriers to success caused by the criminal justice system, FLJC succeeds in helping thousands of individuals each year.