Can a Plastic Fork be a Deadly Weapon and a Basis for an Aggravated Battery Charge in Florida?

The crime of aggravated battery is a very serious felony crime in Florida that often results in a person receiving a prison sentence if convicted. In Florida, aggravated battery is defined as committing a battery (unauthorized contact with another person) with the use of a deadly weapon. As you can see, the definition of battery is very broad. Just about any unauthorized contact with another person can technically be a battery. The question in an aggravated battery case typically revolves around the deadly weapon element. What is a deadly weapon? Sometimes, in the case of a knife or brass knuckles, the object clearly qualifies as a deadly weapon. However, when other, less dangerous objects are used, the answer is not so clear.

In a recent criminal case near Jacksonville, Florida, the defendant was charged with aggravated battery for stabbing the victim in the back of the neck with a plastic fork. The victim was scratched by the fork and had a red mark, but there was no bleeding. The state charged the victim with aggravated battery claiming that the plastic fork could have seriously injured the victim had the defendant stabbed him in a different place on his neck, i.e. at the artery. The judge agreed, and the defendant was convicted of the crime.

The appellate court reversed the conviction. Clearly, this was a regular battery (a misdemeanor crime). However, the plastic fork was not considered a deadly weapon which is a requirement for a felony aggravated battery conviction. A deadly weapon is an object that does or is likely to cause serious injury if used as it is normally intended or any object that is likely to cause serious injury when used as the defendant used it in the particular case. In this case, the plastic fork did not actually cause a serious injury, and there was no evidence that the plastic fork was likely to cause a serious injury if used as the defendant used it or as it was intended to be used. Whether the plastic fork could have caused serious injury if the defendant stabbed the victim in another place on the neck and if it had punctured the victim’s skin is not the standard.

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