TITUSVILLE, Fla. - The Brevard County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO) and local police departments in the county said they are using "good judgement" and "discretion" during the coronavirus crisis.
If a suspect is sick and if the crime is minor, there are things that can be done to avoid putting a person in the jail. But law enforcement agencies said that is making for crimes of opportunity.
Like in the case of 23-year-old James Jarvis. Titusville Police say when he got arrested for shoplifting video game controllers at a Walmart, officers allegedly found things in his car and spoke with a relative- that led them to believe he was not going to stop stealing. Jarvis believed he wouldn't be put in the jail because he had a stuffy nose and chest congestion, they said.
“We determined he needed to be incarcerated, he was going to continue his activity,” said Titusville Deputy Chief Todd Hutchinson.
That alleged tactic of telling officers he was contagious backfired and made things harder for him. The judge said he was a potential danger to the community, increased bond to $15,000. The judge told BCSO if they needed to bring him to a hospital, they could, and eventually he was tested for COVID-19. The Sheriff's Office said the result came back negative.
The Public Defender's Office says while all of this was unfolding, Jarvis was held for three days when he should have been given a summons to appear in court and released on his own recognizance.
The Sheriff's Office says there was some confusion about this case and some miscommunication between the judge and the jail, but BCSO and Titusville PD (the arresting agency) say this was handled correctly.
“We certainly don’t want to create an atmosphere out there where criminals think they can commit minor crimes and ‘I’m not going to jail’ ... that’s not going to happen. We are going to keep our community safe and at the same time, we’re going to use good judgment about if someone can be taken care of with a court date or whether they need to be incarcerated,” Hutchinson said.
Meanwhile, the Sheriff's Office said some inmates who have come down with a runny nose or sore throat have been tested for coronavirus and so far, no inmate has tested positive. BSCO said if that did happen though, there are protocols in place.