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Clearwater, Florida Police Officer Could Face Unlawful Access To Police Database Charges

Clearwater Police Lieutenant Richard Crean is under investigation by the Clearwater, Florida police department for allegedly using a police database illegally. As the basis of the investigation, Lt. Crean is accused of using the database to obtain the personal information of a woman linked to Laura McLynas’ estranged husband James McLynas. Lt. Crean is said to have retrieved certain demographic information on Harwell in abuse of his police duties and turning that information over to Laura McLynas. Harwell claims the information has been used to harass her and entangle her in an ongoing, turbulent custody battle between James and Laura McLynas.

Oddly enough, from what I’ve read it appears the allegation is that Lt. Crean obtained no information of an overly sensitive nature. I understand the information allegedly gathered to be a name, address and date of birth; all things our good friends at Google likely could have provided. I don’t believe Lt. Crean, if charged with this crime is guilty of a heinous spill of sensitive information that could cause financial injury. If he did in fact obtain this information illegally, his actions wholly fly in the face of what “we the people” must have and deserve of our police officers, honesty and integrity. That’s not to say that if he did it he’s not an honest and good officer. The police are people too and people make mistakes. In his situation, if he did it, he will likely suffer a stiffer burden than most in that he would likely lose his career.

Florida Statute 815.06(1) is very likely the statute at issue in this allegation. This statute states in pertinent part,

“Whoever willfully, knowingly, and without authorization:

(a) Accesses or causes to be accessed any computer, computer system, or computer network…. commits a felony of the third degree.

I am unsure as to how the Police or State Attorney’s Office realized that Lt. Crean is allegedly responsible for this illegally obtained information. If he made an admission or Laura McLynas made a statement that he did it, he very likely will be charged. My previous paragraph mentioned damages to the victim. Damages, with respect to this charge, are completely irrelevant. This is very much a policy oriented law. With respect to police departments it almost has to be enforced if for nothing else but to send a message that police meddling won’t be tolerated.

At first blush, if the Pinellas County State Attorney’s Office has an admission, a statement by Ms. McLynas, or a tangible log in trail showing Lt. Crean’s activities on police computers include the alleged search, I suspect charges will come down. Knowing this State Attorney’s Office and its attorneys, I feel safe saying that felony filing decisions are well thought out and are generally accurately made in good faith. Thankfully, I believe it is an office that does what’s right and in the interest of justice and doesn’t buckle to political pressure. That being said, evidence permitting, I believe Lt. Crean will be charged with the third degree felony charge. If the evidence is not there, the State Attorney’s Office will not waste their time and resources.

If Lt. Crean is charged, because of his presumably squeaky clean record, a good Tampa criminal attorney would make his best effort to ensure the State actually has what it needs to meet their burden. If they cannot, the charge could be fought. If they have overwhelming evidence, most Tampa criminal lawyers would lobby for a diversion offer in an attempt to preserve Lt. Crean’s record. A pretrial diversion offer would allow him to avoid the criminal charge if completed successfully. Ultimately if Lt. Crean faces criminal charges I don’t believe he’ll face jail time and going further I believe a diversion offer would be appropriate. I don’t believe he would get special treatment for being an officer but rather he is entitled to the same opportunities afforded to other defendant’s with no criminal history.

The local Tampa Bay area media is eating this up as expected. I anticipate a quick filing decision by the State Attorney. If you’re in need of a Tampa criminal lawyer, contact The Mayberry Law Firm at 813-444-7435 or 727-771-3847.