Florida Court Analyzes What Constitutes a “Weapon” Under the Felony Reclassification Statute

Florida violent crimes are codified by statute. As a result, sometimes courts have to engage in the practice of statutory interpretation to determine which crime is available for prosecution. The answer is not always obvious. For instance, the Florida First District Court of Appeals recently analyzed whether a car could be considered a weapon under the felony reclassification statute in a Florida homicide case.

Weapons

The defendant spent an evening in January at a bar, drinking and watching basketball. At some point, the defendant and the victim got into an altercation at the bar, and the defendant was escorted out of the bar by its staff. The victim later left the bar with a friend, who testified that she saw the defendant’s car parked in a shopping center across the street from the victim’s apartment complex. The witness testified that the car flashed its light. The victim pulled into the parking lot, exited his car, and rushed toward the vehicle. The defendant advanced his vehicle and struck the victim, who died of head injuries on the following day. The defendant was apprehended two weeks later in Chicago. At trial, the jury found the defendant guilty of manslaughter with a weapon. On appeal, the defendant argued that an automobile was not a “weapon” within the statutory meaning of that word.

Florida Statutes Section 775.087(1) enhances the degree of a felony to a greater degree when the commission of the felony occurred while the defendant used a weapon. The statute does not provide a definition of “weapon.” Therefore, principles of statutory interpretation require the court to turn to the common or ordinary meaning of the word.

The appeals court disagreed with a recent Second District Court of Appeal decision that concluded that an automobile was not a weapon under the statute. The Second District concluded that since an automobile’s ordinary purpose is not to be used as a weapon, it could not be a weapon under the statute. The First District disagreed and argued that many objects that are not ordinarily considered weapons could be considered weapons if they were used as such. For instance, kitchen utensils, baseball bats, and golf clubs are not considered weapons but could be used to commit violent crimes. The First District ruled that it should be the way the object is “used” as opposed to its “ordinary purpose” that determines whether it’s a weapon under the statute. Therefore, the defendant’s conviction was affirmed.

Being convicted of manslaughter can effectively put an end to a defendant’s future hopes, dreams, and aspirations. That is a steep price to pay for an act that likely was not intended to result in another person’s death. Clearwater homicide defense attorney Will Hanlon at Hanlon Law can fight hard to protect your future. Call us at 727-897-5413 or contact us online for an appointment to discuss the charges pending against you.

More Blog Posts:

Cell-Tower Data Used in Murder Case Against St. Petersburg Man, Clearwater & St. Petersburg Criminal Lawyer Blog, 

Defendant in Florida Carjacking Case Fails on Double Jeopardy Appeal, Clearwater & St. Petersburg Criminal Lawyer Blog, September 6, 2017

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