In a recent case just south of Jacksonville, Florida, a defendant was arrested and charged with aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, and the alleged deadly weapons were plastic broomsticks. After a trial on the aggravated battery with a deadly weapon charge, the jury convicted him. In Florida, a person commits an aggravated battery if he/she touches or strikes a person without authorization with a deadly weapon. The crime carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison. That is quite serious for touching a person with an object when “deadly weapon” is not defined by the Florida statute.
In this case, the deadly weapon consisted of two plastic broomsticks. Because “deadly weapon” is not defined by the Florida statute, the police, and then a prosecutor and then a jury all determined plastic broomsticks were sufficient to meet the definition of “deadly weapon.” At the aggravated battery trial, the prosecutor did not bring the broomsticks to the trial and introduce them into evidence so the jury never saw them. The prosecutor did not even show the jury pictures of the broomsticks. Apparently, the only evidence about the broomsticks was witness testimony that they were flimsy, bent and easily broken after one or two usages. There was even testimony that the broomsticks could not hurt anyone seriously.
The criminal defense lawyer moved for a judgment of acquittal after this evidence. While the Florida statute is vague about what constitutes a “deadly weapon”, in order to prove the crime of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant used an object that will likely cause death or great bodily harm when used in its ordinary manner. Under this definition, which was created by the courts, obvious examples include guns and knives. However, an assortment of other objects can be considered deadly weapons if they are used in a way that is likely to cause great bodily injury or death. On the other hand, many objects cannot be considered deadly weapons because they cannot cause great bodily injury or death when used in their ordinary manner. Flimsy, plastic broomsticks that break easily would seem to fall into this latter category. However, for some reason, the judge and the jury disagreed, and the defendant was convicted of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon for hitting the victim with the plastic broomsticks.
Fortunately for the defendant, the case was appealed, and the appellate court reversed the conviction. The appellate court mentioned the obvious- that there was no evidence at all that the plastic broomsticks were likely to cause serious bodily injury or death. In fact, the evidence clearly established that the plastic broomsticks were not deadly weapons. As a result, the conviction for aggravated battery with a deadly weapon was reversed.