Well, that’s pretty obvious advice, isn’t it?
If one wanted to be (not) really helpful, one could say, “Don’t get arrested in ANY state. Or country, for that matter.”
Easier said than done, smartypants.
There are several American states I stay out of these days for reasons I’d obviously rather not go into in this public forum. We all make mistakes and, as long as it’s not a felony and the state line is within an hour’s drive, my rule of thumb is to get out of there and never go back. Homeland security is another matter. (You don’t think they read a radical left-wing rag like the Sun, so you?)
So why do I focus on Florida in particular?
Because in Florida you not only have to worry about your legal jeopardy and rights when you’re booked, you have to worry about how you look.
You simply cannot pull a Nick Nolte in Florida and keep any degree of personal dignity. Not that Nick kept any self-respect after his California arrest.
But if you’re arrested in Florida (and some other states, but not ones that Canadians flock to in such flock-like numbers) you don’t even have time to call your lawyer or personal hair stylist before your mugshot is out there on the Internet for the entire world to see.
For example, on Monday of this week there were 1,400-1,500 arrests in the state of Florida and 1,377 arrest mugshots are already up online for you and me and the rest of the world see.
Take a look. Here’s a link to florida.arrests.org where all those mugshots are posted — and stay forever.
The cross-section is demographically fairly representative of Forida’s population, which means that — regardless of race, colour or creed — there are an awful lot of old people up on charges in the Sunshine State on a daily basis.
Take, for example, this tough old dude.
We know from the booking information posted on florida.arrests.org that this desperado is named Frank Urban and he recently turned 71 (born April 23, 1941 — before the U.S. entered World War II).
Fast Frankie (or maybe Fierce Frankie or maybe Frankie Flowers) was arrested in Seminole County (in the-middle-of-nowhere-Florida) on 5-15-2012 (that’s cop talk for Monday).
And what was Fast/Fierce/Flowers Frankie arrested for?
We don’t really know. Because, like so many of the (maybe) perps who are held up to public ridicule and/or disgrace and/or ruin on the florida.arrests.org website, the reason for Frank Urban’s presence there is listed as “Charges Unknown.”
Most of the 1,000-2,000 people whose photos and rap sheets are posted each and every day on the florida.arrests.org website are there for things like drug possession or public drunkenness or driving without a proper license or petty theft (petit theft, as it is known in Florida criminal statutes) or trespassing (which, in Florida, means a homeless person chose the wrong place to sleep), often accompanied by a charge of assault on a police officer.
There are also, sadly, a lot of domestic assault charges and child endangerment charges and assault on senior charges.
There are relatively few charges involving death or dismemberment or disaster.
All in all it’s a sad, sorry story of failed human beings stumbling through life, knocking over stop signs as they go, stealing candy bars and hurting people they say they love.
But it is the human condition at its most basic, most primal. It’s pathetic and it’s fascinating. It could be you or me, there but for the grace of God and (maybe) staying out of the state of Florida.
It’s 1,000-2,000 new stories of the human tragedy/comedy every day — and those stories are waiting for you to read online every day.
Can you read those stories in the faces captured in the flash of the booking photo?
I don’t think so. But let’s find out.
Take a look at the people in the mugshots below. They are variously charged with premeditated murder in the first degree, driving under the influence resulting in manslaughter, “charge unknown” but requiring protective custody, indecent exposure, contempt of court and trespassing.
Can you really tell these books by their covers?
It’s hard to figure, isn’t it? If you want to know their real stories (or what the Florida police say their stories are), they were all booked and photographed on May 14. You can sort through the 1,377 mugshots posted that day to find the answers.
(Or you can drag their mugshots from this blog over to your desktop. I’ve got their names and charges listed in the image ID. But that would be cheating, wouldn’t it? Actually, dragging photos is a Mac thing, isn’t it? And I’ve just discovered that the image ID will show up — at least on my Mac laptop — if you run the cursor over a photograph.)
I’m going to leave you now, but before I go I want you to take a look at one particular mugshot.
This is Julia Valentine Back. She was arrested in Key West, Fla., on Saturday for trespassing (which basically means she is homeless and a homeowner didn’t like her sleeping on his or her property Saturday night).
The photo itself is (dare I say) arresting but I was also drawn to the locale. I spent quite a bit of time in Key West in my late teens and early 20s and I used to know a lot of broken/interesting people who washed up there like driftwood at the southern-most shore of America. People like Jimmy Buffet and the cocaine-dealing fire chief “Bum” Farto. But also people like Julia Valentine Back. In fact, Jimmy probably wrote “There’s A Woman Going Crazy on Caroline Street” about someone like Julia Valentine Back while he was sitting in the Bull & Whistle.
Julia first came to the attention of the Key West police in 2006 when she was 53 and they arrested her for disorderly conduct. She managed to stay off the police radar until 2008 when she got into a bit of trouble for things like “petit theft” and “fail to leave property on order of owner.”
She was released on her own recognizance and, of course, failed to appear in court. Somehow or other she managed to stumble into the consciousness of Key West police again in 2010, when she was 57, and they arrested her for failing to appear in court on the 2008 charges. That’s when this photo was taken.
Julia was arrested again last September for “petit theft” and this was her booking photo.
In November 2011 and January 2012 she was charged with trespassing (homeless or at least no longer wanted) and this photo was taken on one of those two occasions.
Then, on Saturday night, she was arrested again for picking the wrong place to sleep and the Ma Kettle mugshot made it onto florida.arrests.org.
I love this photo. Julia’s been kicked around a lot by life but, man, she’s got gumption. She may be hurting bad on the inside but she gives the world a smile. And she’s got nice teeth in some of her photos. I hope her teeth are still good. That’s important when you’re homeless.
So here’s to you, Julia Valentine Back. I hope the Key West cops treat you well. At least the sun is usually shining and a nice breeze is always blowing in from some point of the compass.
I’ll check in on florida.arrests.org from time to time to see how you’re doing.
And you’re just one of the 1,000-2,000 human stories that show up there every day.