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Aggravated Battery With a Deadly Weapon (Vehicle)

There are several different types of Aggravated Battery, and the analysis hinges upon (1) the alleged victim of the battery (a pregnant female, senior citizen, police officer, etc), and (2) the type of deadly weapon used (knife, bb gun, hammer, car, etc.). For now, our focus will be on cars as deadly weapons, because vehicles require a unique analysis under the aggravated battery laws. This issue comes up time and time again, so let me take you through, briefly, how to approach such charges.

What makes an Aggravated Battery with a Deadly Weapon charge 'different' when the deadly weapon is a vehicle? Well, the defendant has no "direct" contact with the alleged victim, the contact is car-to-car. As an example, let's look at Williamson v State, 510 So2d 335 (Fla. 4th DCA 1987), where the defendant was involved in a high speed chase with the police during which he “crashed his car into the side of one the troopers’ cars.” The pertinent language from the decision is,

“The touching or striking in the present case was to the outer body of an automobile which Trooper Thomas was driving, with no direct impact upon or even injury to the trooper. In fact, the evidence shows that the trooper was not even jostled about in the car as a result of the impact. We conclude that as a matter of law the automobile in this case did not have such an intimate connection with the person of the trooper so as to conclude that a battery occurred.”

Thus, the aggravated battery against the defendant was overturned. The problem with the above language is that it can be construed in two ways. One, because the contact was not directly with the person of the trooper, could the defendant nevertheless be charged with a form of battery for unlawfully “touching” the person? Or, two, because the “touching” of the vehicle in which the vehicle was riding was so slight, could this minimal contact with no injury be regarded as aggravated battery with a deadly weapon?

The law in Florida for aggravated battery with a vehicle is that the alleged victim need not suffer any "injury", because the "aggravating" factor for the charge is the use of a "deadly weapon"--a motor vehicle--in the commission of the battery. A detailed analysis of how this breaks down can be found in in V.A. v State, 819 So2d 847 (Fla. 4d DCA 2002) where the court held,

“Thus, in order to prove the offense of aggravated battery arising out of the defendant’s ramming of another vehicle, it is necessary for the State to show that the occupants of the rammed vehicle were at least jostled or moved about within their vehicle. The Second District has said that it is sufficient if the occupants of the rammed vehicle had to brace themselves from the impact of an impending substantial (defense emphasis) collision. Wingfield v State, 816 So2d 675 (Fla. 2d DCA 2002), on remand from Wingfield v State, 799 So2d 1022 (Fla. 2001)

Because there had been no evidence that the occupants of the struck vehicle in V.A. were “jostled or otherwise moved about within their vehicle by the collision or braced themselves to protect against the impending impact,” the evidence, as in Williamson, was legally insufficient to establish the offense of aggravated battery. Conviction overturned. In conclusion, the court in V.A. noted,

“The State points out that when V.A. rammed the police car, he caused it to move backwards. The State argues that from this, the trial court could draw the inference that the officers were jostled or shaken up. There may be cases whether the impact is so severe that such an inference can be drawn, but the impact in this case was not of such magnitude, and no one made that argument in the trial court….Summing up, to prove aggravated battery, the State must offer evidence that the occupants of the rammed vehicle; (1) were injured, or, (2) were jostled, or, (3), were moved about within the vehicle, or, (4) had to brace themselves for protection against the impending impact.”

But there's more complexity to a vehicle as a deadly weapon case than an analysis of the impact felt by the alleged victim. Another factor to consider is the manner in which the car was used. If the alleged deadly weapon involved is not used in a way likely to cause death or great bodily harm, then the “aggravated” battery cannot be sustained. An instrument that will likely cause death or great bodily harm when used in the ordinary and usual manner contemplated by its design is a deadly weapon. Robinson v State, 547 So2d 321 (Fla. 5th DCA 1989) A stick, for instance, is not inherently a deadly weapon under this definition but it can become a deadly weapon depending on how it is used. Coronado v State, 654 So2d 1267 (Fla. 2d DCA 1995), Vincente v State, 669 So2d 1119 (Fla. 3d DCA 1996) (A screwdriver’s normal use is not to cause death or great bodily harm but can be used as a knife to stab someone)

Cars are not built to cause death or great bodily harm when used in their ordinary and usual manner and, thus, do not constitute deadly weapons per se. In order to prove these cases, the State will, therefore, have to prove that the facts of the case are different than V.A. and Williamson (above) in order to avoid a motion to dismiss or judgment of acquittal.

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