Local prosecutors are dismissing all of the charges against a Mobile County Constable arrested for impersonating an officer and unlawfully detaining a motorist last week.
The Mobile County Sheriff’s Office had faced criticism for its July 11 arrest of Jeffrey Morris, an elected constable in the Tanner Williams area.
After detaining motorist, Morris contacted MCSO for backup, but when deputies arrived they arrested him.
The Alabama Constables Association (ACA) had publicly condemned the arrest and called on the Mobile County District Attorney’s Office to drop the charges of unlawful imprisonment and impersonating a peace officer.
On Friday, the office issued a statement saying it would do just that.
“After examining the evidence and then applying the law to the facts, the Mobile County District Attorney’s Office has decided to dismiss all charges against Jeffrey Morris,” the statement reads. “Our responsibility as prosecutors is to seek the truth and follow the law and that is what we are doing in this case and in every case we handle.”
MCSO has not yet commented on Rich’s decision to drop all of the charges against Morris, though the agency appeared confident last week his arrest was proper.
Sheriff Sam Cochran even issued a statement urging state officials and the ACA to develop background checks and stronger training standards for Alabama constables — claiming they currently “answer to no one except the voters.”
It’s an issue that’s been a particular concern because of problems Mobile County has had with some of its constables in recent years. Since 2012, at least six current or former Mobile County constables have been charged and convicted of crimes including Morris.
As for the training concerns, Cochran and others who support reforming or abolishing Alabama’s use of constables have suggested many of aren’t familiar with the law. Despite that, Alabama law gives the authority to make arrests, carry a pistol and stop citizens.
In documents filed before Morris’ case was dismissed, an incident report submitted by an MCSO detective on the scene suggested Morris was also unfamiliar with the law.
His report said Morris told responding deputies he stopped a motorist, who was identified as Stephen Orso, because his car was following too closely. Orso had an active warrant, but the report gave no indication Morris knew that when he detained him.
“When asked why he handcuffed Orso on a traffic stop, Morris stated, ‘I detained him for probable cause.’ When asked what, exactly, that meant, Morris again stated the same thing,” the officer’s report reads. “[The officer] then asked if Morris had any training in traffic laws or procedure in making traffic stops. He stated that he did not.”
According to Orso’s statements, Morris pulled him over using a “handheld blue light” held out the window of his car.
Like citizens, Constables are not permitted to use blue lights in Alabama, and the report says Morris initially lied about using one before eventually admitting to it after being pressed by investigators.
The report also states that Morris refused to tell Orso why he was being stopped. After repeated questions, Morris allegedly told Orso, “You’ll see what’s up when the county gets here.”
When the county got there, Morris was arrested, but with the charges dismissed, his case will not be moving forward. Morris’ attorney, Jeff Deen, seemed to suggest the state had little hope of proving the charges anyway.
In court, Deen made a simple argument in a brief motion to dismiss: If constables are peace officers, how can Morris impersonate something he was elected to be?
“He cannot be charged and convicted of impersonating himself,” he added.
In its response, the state did not go into detail about its interpretation of the laws surrounding constables — only saying that “to best serve the interest of justice” Morris’ charges and an initially unreported citation for having blue lights would be dismissed.