• The Heritage Network
    • Resize:
    • A
    • A
    • A
  • Donate
  • Man Arrested for Releasing Heart-Shaped Balloons in Romantic Gesture

    Henrik Sorensen Cultura/Newscom

    Anthony Brasfield, a 40-year-old Florida man, was arrested Sunday for releasing a dozen heart-shaped helium balloons into the air in what was to be a romantic gesture for his girlfriend, according to SunSentinel.com.

    Brasfield was charged with polluting to harm humans, animals, and plants under the Florida Air and Water Pollution Control Act (FAWPCA). Brasfield released the balloons a mile and a half from an animal refuge, possibly endangering animals. Brasfield’s offense is a third-degree felony.

    Is releasing balloons something that is worth sending a person to prison over?

    If releasing balloons should be a crime, there are plenty of wedding parties and hundreds of thousands of Nebraska Cornhusker football fans who should be locked away for a long time.

    Worse, the crime most likely occurs every day right inside the state of Florida. Up the coast from where Brasfield was arrested, there is a place that sells a large number of helium balloons: Disney World. Is a child who intentionally releases a Mickey Mouse balloon a felon? Regrettably, the answer may be yes.

    Under FAWPCA, a willful violation of the act is punished with up to five years in prison. You may think, “But he didn’t willfully violate the law.” That may be true, but the Florida Supreme Court has said that doesn’t matter.

    While the U.S. Supreme Court has interpreted willful in federal statutes to mean an intentional violation of a known legal duty (Cheek v. United States, 498 U.S. 192 (1991)), the Florida Supreme Court has interpreted willful to mean “[p]roceeding from a conscious motion of the will” (Polite v. State, 973 So.2d 1107, 1112 (Fla. 2007)). This means that a person can be found guilty when he intends his actions (in this case, releasing the balloon) regardless of whether he knows about or intends to break the law.

    Trying to deter nominally harmful conduct through the criminal code puts well-meaning citizens at risk of being labeled criminals. A ticket and/or fine would surely have discouraged Brasfield from releasing balloons again and would have helped put others on notice that they should demonstrate their affection in some other way. There is no cause to prosecute in this situation. A prosecution can result only in added cost to the state and interfering with Brasfield’s life by needlessly branding him a criminal.

    How many criminal laws do you break every day without even realizing it? Sadly, like Brasfield, when you find out, it may be too late.

    Posted in Legal [slideshow_deploy]

    Comments are closed.

    Comments are subject to approval and moderation. We remind everyone that The Heritage Foundation promotes a civil society where ideas and debate flourish. Please be respectful of each other and the subjects of any criticism. While we may not always agree on policy, we should all agree that being appropriately informed is everyone's intention visiting this site. Profanity, lewdness, personal attacks, and other forms of incivility will not be tolerated. Please keep your thoughts brief and avoid ALL CAPS. While we respect your first amendment rights, we are obligated to our readers to maintain these standards. Thanks for joining the conversation.

    Big Government Is NOT the Answer

    Your tax dollars are being spent on programs that we really don't need.

    I Agree I Disagree ×

    Get Heritage In Your Inbox — FREE!

    Heritage Foundation e-mails keep you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.