Former Lee County Commissioner Brian Bigelow was arrested for cocaine-related charges early this morning. I’ll be the first one to say that according to the facts in the report per NBC-2.com, it looks like illegal police action may allow him to beat the charges. According to the NBC article, the officers saw him standing by his vehicle, and pulled up behind him, blocking him in.* That is an unlawful detention. The courts have held that blocking someone’s vehicle is a detention, therfore the officers needed to have a particular suspicion of ongoing criminal activity. Simply being in a high-crime area is not sufficient.
So, on the facts in the article, it appears the Fort Myers Police Department violated his rights, and the judge will be forced to throw out the evidence against him as the result of an unlawful seizure and search. It’s possible they had other evidence of criminal activity before the detention that might save their case, but it looks likely that Mr. Bigelow’s attorney shouldn’t have any trouble beating this case.
Mr. Bigelow’s companion in the car was also arrested for drug charges. The NBC article indicates the bond was low due to his lack of history. On the contrary, a $12,000 bond is quite high for someone with no criminal history. The schedule bond for Possession of Cocaine is $1,500 and another $1,000 for Possession of paraphernalia. Oh, he also got a Loitering and Prowling charges (schedule bond $500), which also looks very weak. The bond was likely increased because although he has no convictions, he does have a case still pending for Allowing an Unauthorized Person to Drive. Perhaps the bond was given as an alternative to the supervised release that he was ordered, which includes submitting to drug tests while the case is pending. The courts often give such an option.
UPDATE: added “According to NBC article”
*UPDATE 2: The Officer denies blocking him in, per his arrest report. This does not change my opinion of the outcome in my analysis.