Grocery Store Owner’s Criminal Charge Dismissed !!
C.R. owns several grocery stores throughout Florida—-one of the few remaining independent, entrepreneurial grocery chains still in operation. His retail outlets offer produce, meats, fresh fish, canned goods—-the full panoply of items found in the major grocery chains, but on a smaller, customer friendly scale.
Florida Fish and Wildlife agents are considered certified “law enforcement officers”. Occasionally, these primarily ‘administrative’ employees, who typically may be found on Florida’s inland waterways, issuing tickets for traveling too fast in a Manatee Zone, fishing without a license or ‘stamp’, failures to comply with the correct number of lifejackets on board, etc., try to “expand their horizons” by ‘going undercover’.
Perhaps this empowers them. Perhaps it is a way in which these State employees can depart from the repetitive day-to-day monotony which characterizes most of their routine employment activities. Maybe it allows them to feel as though they are in a “Law and Order” episode…….who knows?
In any event, our Fish and Wildlife Officer hero elected to become an ‘environmental activist/Investigator’. He identified an obscure portion of Florida’s administrative code which prohibits the sale of fish (specifically Red Grouper) below a certain length. Although this is an Administrative Code rule, there is another law in Florida which makes certain administrative rules PROSECUTABLE AS CRIMINAL OFFENSES !!!
The Fish policeman entered C.R.’s grocery, went to the fresh fish counter, and noted what appeared to be an undersized Red Grouper. He then identified himself as a Fish and Wildlife Officer, and demanded to see any other grouper in the store that were similarly undersized. The employee working behind the counter identified multiple boxes of the diminutive fishes, and the fish police demanded the counterperson to find the store manager, and then asked the manager to find the Owner, (who happened to be in that particular store on that day). The counterperson, the Store Manager, and the Owner all cooperated with the “undercover” Fish Policeman.
As it turns out, their cooperation was for naught, because the Aquatic Authoritarian elected to cite the grocery store chain OWNER with a CRIMINAL charge! (St. Lucie County Case 56-2012-MM-3779-A)
As part of C.R.’s business operations, he routinely travels outside of the continental United States—–even a minor criminal conviction could result in his being ‘red flagged’ by Homeland Security and TSA, and thereby substantially curtailing his freedom of movement, and the ability to manage his business operations.
C.R.’s Orlando counsel contacted Jay Kirschner, who immediately filed his Notice of Appearance, and began to review the case in order to find some manner in which to attack the prosecution.
On June 7, 2013, Kirschner filed a “C-4” Verified Motion to Dismiss, requesting the Court to drop the case, because the State could not prove the pesky undersized grouper had been caught in Florida’s waters or the Gulf of Mexico, and further arguing that C.R. could not be held criminally responsible for dealing in undersized fish, merely because he owned the grocery store chain.
The State of Florida opposed the motion, and filed a memorandum of law in an effort to persuade the Judge not to dismiss the case.
On August 30, 2013, the trial court Judge issued his Order dismissing the criminal charge against C.R.