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Florida judge drops criminal charge against actor

Sarasota County residents will likely be familiar with the stand-up comedy and screen performances of actor Hannibal Buress. The performer gained particular attention in recent years for publicly calling out Bill Cosby's alleged history of sexual assault.

Unfortunately for Buress, a Florida police officer did not consider it a laughing matter when the comedian approached him on a street corner, asking the officer to call him an Uber. While the officer repeatedly told Buress to move along, the comedian began teasing him and speaking into his body camera. Some of the exchange was captured on the camera.

Eventually, the officer placed the actor under arrest, telling him at first that he was trespassing. Buress can be heard protesting on the body camera footage that he had not been read his rights. A group of passersby also captured footage of the arrest with their phones. Buress was eventually charged with misdemeanor disorderly intoxication (not trespassing).

Recently, that criminal charge was dropped completely by a Florida court. Buress' attorney pointed out that asking a police officer to call a ride is First Amendment-protected free speech. Having access in court to both police body camera footage and privately-recorded third-party footage of the arrest may have also been a factor leading to the positive result, as it clearly documented what took place and eliminated any ambiguity.

A criminal law professional can draw upon multiple resources in defending a Sarasota County resident facing criminal charges. Whether it means showing video footage in court or citing the Constitution, defendants have the right to a presumption of innocence and to tell their side of the story.

Source: Bradenton Herald, "Comedian Hannibal Buress gets the last laugh as he beats a criminal charge in Miami," David Ovalle, Feb. 1, 2018

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