Residents of the Seattle area may want to keep an eye on the details of a sunbathing case that resulted in a felony charge, because it raises important questions about what influences police officers during an arrest.
Police were called to a North Seattle park in August by a young woman claiming to have seen a man masturbating in public. The 23-year old said she saw a shirtless man with his pants pulled down. Further, she said he was staring at her. The man was still in the park when the police arrived, and he told them he had been sunbathing. Given that the suspect had previous convictions for indecent exposure, police were quick to arrest him.
Despite the man's explanation that he had gone to Cowen Park to catch some afternoon sun, a female officer who responded to the scene claimed that there was not enough sun in his location for this to be feasible.
Being accused of a crime and being arrested based on the word of a single witness in a busy public park may well be frustrating. However, if the person involved has been convicted of a felony offense in the past, the penalties that they may face may be more severe. Criminal histories can have a big impact on how the police assess a situation, and an individual with a criminal record may wind up in further trouble with the law over a simple mistake. Those who have been accused of committing a crime need to be fully aware of their legal rights and options. Not everyone accused of a crime is guilty.
Source: Seattle Post-Intelligencer, "Alleged Seattle park masturbator: I was getting 'some sun'," Levi Pulkkinen, Sept. 19, 2012