As reported by the Sun Sentinel, on October 11th of this year, a 19-year-old from Palm Beach Gardens was arrested on for the illegal killing of an alligator, a slaying for which he used a machete.
Given what we know of the case at this point, the criminal defense attorneys at Leifert & Leifert have determined three major “don’ts” that the man demonstrated in this one incident, which you should take note of.
First, and most obviously, you should not kill alligators, especially illegally. Florida state law requires special permits and weapons to kill alligators, and the killings may only take place on certain state land regulated for that purpose. Second, you should never document yourself doing something that might be a crime. Third, you should not point the finger at an innocent person, or you will only add to the charges that can be filed against you.
As far as the first point goes: it shouldn’t have to be said, but it is not a good idea to illegally kill an alligator in the State of Florida (or elsewhere, for that matter). There are certain portions of the state where regulated hunting, trapping and killing of alligators is permitted, but again, doing so is only permitted if the hunter has requisite permits and allowed weapons. Indiscriminately killing an alligator with a machete does not fall within the confines of legal killing of an alligator as far as Florida law is concerned.
The second and third “don’ts” are a bit more technical and perhaps less obvious.
The second has to do with how the crime was discovered in the first place. According to the above-cited Sun Sentinel article, after killing the alligator, the 19-year-old texted a photograph of himself posing next to the dead reptile to his father. In doing so, he essentially took a photograph of his own crime scene and disseminated the information throughout the digital world. Unfortunately for the 19-year-old, his father was unpleased with the graphic text message he received, and so he alerted the appropriate authorities, in this case the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
The Commission investigated and eventually reached the conclusion that the alligator had indeed been killed illegally, a conclusion that they might not have reached had the alligator killer not photographed himself at the scene of the crime. (For more information on the role of technology in inadvertent self-incrimination, check out another recent blog of ours here.)
The third “do not do” in this case arose once the authorities had already begun questioning the suspect. After being read his Miranda rights, the suspect in this case pointed the finger at a 27-year-old friend of his, claiming that the friend was the one who really killed the alligator. Police caught up with the friend and when they questioned him about the situation, he denied all wrongdoing. In fact, he even allowed police to listen-in on a conversation he had with the suspect, in which the friend got the suspect to admit to hacking the alligator with the machete. The innocent 27-year-old friend was dragged into this mess because of a major judgment in error by the suspect.
According to Florida law, relaying false information to the police (which the suspect did in this case) “concerning the alleged commission of a crime,” can garner you either a misdemeanor or felony charge, depending on a variety of factors, including whether you’ve given false information to police before, how the information was given to police, etc. Regardless, you face jail time if you give false information to police. Moreover, aside from the harm you can do to yourself, you can ruin someone else’s life by falsely accusing them of a crime. Even when cleared of wrongdoing, their reputation can still be destroyed because of your misconduct.
If you are arrested and/or charged with a crime in Palm Beach or Broward counties, don’t rely on your own intuition to guide you through the complicated twists and turns of the legal road ahead. You need an experienced attorney on your side. Contact the Law Offices of Leifert & Leifert, a Partnership of Former Prosecutors, for a free consultation to discuss your rights. Call 1.888.5.DEFEND.