FL Sheriff’s Lobbyist Avoids Criminal Charges By Pleading Ignorance
Last year a top lobbyist for Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings broke the law. Captain Mike Fewless broke a few, actually. But he avoided prosecution by claiming he didn’t know he was breaking the law, a defense that doesn’t work for the common citizen.
In working to gain support for gun control, Fewless distributed driver’s license photos of eight “outlaw bikers” with concealed weapons permits. The move was in opposition to a proposed open-carry law. He hoped to convince lawmakers that an open-carry law, allowing people like these bikers to carry their weapons out in the open, would hamper tourism in the area.
Fewless was acting in conjunction with the Florida Sheriff’s Association to convince lawmakers that open-carry legislation was a bad idea. But, he broke more than one law in his photo-wielding efforts.
State law prohibits identifying people with concealed weapons permits. Also, the federal Driver’s Privacy Protection Act of 1994 prohibits releasing driver’s license photos. But Fewless claimed he didn’t know about either of these laws, and his claim was enough to get him off the hook.
According to the Orlando Sentinel, Fewless said, “The fact that nobody from the (Florida Sheriff’s Association) meeting indicated it was bad idea to show photographs of (the bikers) that had CCF (firearm permits) indicates that nobody was aware of the law prohibiting it.”
As a result, Fewless was cleared of any wrongdoing and one agent, who provided Fewless with the photographs, was reprimanded.
Former NRA President and critic of the Fewless’ photo campaign Marion Hammer says quite accurately, “When you or I do something we’re told ‘ignorance of the law is no excuse.’”
Seeing one law enforcement official being treated differently than the average citizen does not sit well with most people, nor should it. Ignorance is not a proper legal defense and not an excuse for breaking the law. While this may have been a minor violation, when compared with other possible crimes, the fact that Fewless’ ignorance got him off just shows that enforcement of the law is not always equal.
There are very few judges and prosecutors that will be sympathetic to someone who didn’t know they were breaking the law, because with most criminal charges knowledge of the violation is considered common sense.
If you are facing criminal charges and are unsure of the laws or the criminal court process, you need an advocate on your side to help you along the way. Contact our offices today for a free consultation on your case and to see how we can help.