So, the question for the day is a simple one: can a broomstick be a deadly weapon? Well, of course it can, in the hands of a kung fu master like Bruce Lee. Apparently, Bruce Lee can kill with a feather. But, if Bruce Lee is the standard–everything on earth is a deadly weapon. But in real life, the courts have applied a different standard. Let’s take a look.
In Brevard County, Brandon Brown was convicted of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon. You lawyers out there know that the bad thing about aggravated battery is that it is a level seven (7) offense, scoring 56 points on a score sheet (any score above 44 points translates into a mandatory prison sentence, ouch). Brown appealed his conviction for aggravated battery, in Brown v. State, 86 So.3d 569 (Fla. 5th DCA 2012). Here’s what happened.
Brown is alleged to have used to “hollow, flimsy, plastic broomstick” to batter his former girlfriend. She sustained no injuries, though did testify that the hits were very painful. In the middle of the jury trial, Brown’s defense attorney asked the judge to dismiss the aggravated battery charge because the prosecutor never introduced into evidence the broomsticks–not even photographs, and further argued that the broomsticks did not meet the definition of “deadly weapon”. For some unknown reason, the judge denied the defense lawyer’s motion to dismiss. After the judge denied Brown a dismissal, Brown took the stand and testified to battering the victim with the plastic broomsticks. Brown’s defense attorney again moved for dismissal. Again, denied.
So, you’re probably asking yourself, what is the definition of “deadly weapon”? Unfortunately, the statute doesn’t answer the question. Even though the Florida Criminal Statutes contain a zillion definitions, “deadly weapon” isn’t one of them. You would think that our legislature has the time to define all the words within their statutes, but hey, why bother with such details? Voting “yes” or “no” is such an exhausting job, who has the time? But never fear, our court system stepped in to provide this definition — “an instrument that will likely cause death or great bodily harm when used in the ordinary and usual manner contemplated by its design”. Quoting Michaud v. State, 47 So.3d 374, 376 (Fla. 5th DCA 2010).
The appeals court overturned Brown’s conviction for aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, finding that the state never presented any evidence that the broomsticks would ever cause “death or great bodily harm”. The appeals court cited C.A.C. v. State, in which the defendant stabbed the victim several times in the back, suffering scratches, swelling, and puncture marks from the fork. 771. So. 2d 1261. Fortunately, no medical treatment was required for this fork stabbing. However, C.A.C. was convicted of aggravated battery. The appeals court overturned the conviction, again reasoning that “a fork is not likely to cause death or great bodily harm when used in the ordinary manner contemplated by its design and that there was no evidence that the fork, as used by the defendant, was likely to cause great bodily harm.” Id at 1262.
Well, there you have it. A broomstick is not a deadly weapon. A fork is not a deadly weapon. Why prosecutors continue to charge such things, having read cases like C.A.C.–seems like a waste of money and time. But then again, would you expect anything less from our government?