GRANDMOTHER, DISCIPLINE, AND THE POLICE
By Paul A. Meissner, Jr.
Carlson, Meissner, Hart & Hayslett, P.A.
Attorneys Fighting for the Injured and Defending the Accused Since 1971
In these days and times, there is not always a happy, or fairy tale ending to life’s challenging episodes. But, in at least one instance, the involvement of attorney Kevin Hayslett
and the Law Offices of Carlson, Meissner, Hart & Hayslett
, in Clearwater, Florida (www.carlsonmeissner.com
,) was instrumental in common sense and good judgment finally prevailing in a situation where current political correctness, and the letter of the law mitigated against reaching a proper result.
On April 27, 2010, 73 year old Theresa Collier
, a grandmother of four who has never been involved with the police, was arrested and spent the night in the Pinellas County Jail in Clearwater, Florida. Mrs. Collier was arrested
by the Largo, Florida Police Department for slapping her 18 year old granddaughter across the face. Mr. and Mrs. Collier, had been instrumental in raising their granddaughter
after the death of her father, and some complications to the mother’s life. Mrs. Collier was concerned about her granddaughter’s unwillingness to apply herself to her schoolwork, when testing had shown her to be extremely intelligent with great future potential for success. There had recently been behavioral issues which resulted in her leaving the private school the grandparents had helped her attend.
The slap was precipitated by a defiant, aggressive verbal confrontation. Mrs. Collier implored her granddaughter
to finish her homework. The granddaughter defiantly barraged her grandmother with a string of epithets and curse words worthy of a drunken sailor on leave after six months at sea. After the single slap across the face, granddaughter grabbed Mrs. Collier
first, then the phone, and dialed 911. Two Largo Police officers arrived, and acting within “department guidelines”, arrested grandma who then spent over 24 hours in jail before being released on her own recognizance. The details of her arrest, handcuffing, and humiliation at booking and in jail are all recounted in newspaper articles appearing in the St. Petersburg Times in the following days. Add to the scenario, the request of the granddaughter, once the police arrived, that no arrest be made, and the failure of the officer’s to seek guidance from a supervisor (as was available to them), and you have a prescription for disaster.
The publicity following the arrest, sparked a public outcry heavily weighted in favor of Mrs. Collier. Blog comments to the newspaper generally expressed frustration along the lines of “where did we go wrong?”, and “how did we get to this ridiculous abandonment of common sense and good judgment?.”
So where is the fairy tale or happy ending? Attorney Kevin Hayslett
, of the Law Offices of Carlson, Meissner, Hart, and Hayslett,
had the privilege of representing Mrs. Collier in fighting the criminal charges associated with her arrest. After disclosure of all of the facts, the Office of the State Attorney in Clearwater, Fl. quickly agreed that criminal charges were not appropriate under the circumstances. In this case the lawyer was able to help bring about a sensible resolution of the issues. Granddaughter has agreed to counseling
as a first step to an attitude adjustment which everyone hopes can be a turning point in her young life.
Most adults are able to look back upon their childhood and observe that there were times when they absolutely tested the authority and wisdom of their parents or grandparents, and were deserving of some form of “attitude adjustment”. For most of us the wisdom that comes with age recognizes that discipline, and a demand for respect, even if physical in nature, was ultimately beneficial, and not harmful to our development as well adjusted adults. Most, also understand that as parents themselves, dealing with our children during adolescence can be frustrating and challenging. The interference of government ought to be reserved for the most egregious and potentially dangerous circumstances. Government action must include discretion. If the government agents, or agencies, are not competent to exercise discretion, they should not be engaged in investigating or enforcing laws relating to domestic violence or relationships.
Our current society’s insistence upon “political correctness.” and our concern with preventing abuse (physical or mental) in all relationships has resulted in some fairly harsh consequences. In one area, domestic violence, many state laws are interpreted by the police as requiring an arrest be made to diffuse a domestic violence incident, without the exercise of discretion at the law enforcement level. Many argue that the police do little or no investigation in these cases, and the “victim” is the person who first dials 911. We have all read of incidents of arrests of teachers, and parents, who are accused of “corporal punishment”, or of physically striking a child or elderly person. The issue is clear in cases where the attack is unprovoked, brutal, or borders on torture or a continued pattern of physical abuse. The issue is not so clear when the battery or assault, is provoked, spontaneous, there is no history of violence, and causes no serious physical harm.
Fighting words or credible verbal threats of harm have long been recognized by the law as justification for defensive action. Insulting, humiliating, or disrespectful tirades defiantly directed to a parent, or grandparent who has only the best interests of the child at heart, for most of us would be ample justification for application of “attitude adjustment”
in the form of a simple slap.
Click here to watch the news video: Grandmother Spends Night in Jail