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What Qualifies as a "Deadly Weapon"?

In what some are calling a “stupid prank” blown out of proportion, a young man from Jupiter, Florida is facing felony aggravated assault charges after tossing a three-foot-long alligator through the drive-thru window of a Wendy’s restaurant. According to the news report, the young man confessed to having picked up the alligator from the side of the road and driving with it in his truck until he reached the Wendy’s restaurant. Then, after placing an order and while the workers’ backs were turned, the man tossed the alligator into the restaurant. No one was injured in the incident. The man’s parents claim the incident was simply a prank was directed at an employee of the restaurant with whom the man was friendly.

This incident presents a unique legal question: Does an alligator fit the definition of a “deadly weapon”?

No Aggravated Assault if Not Committed with a Deadly Weapon

The reason this question is important is because the man in the news story cannot be found guilty of aggravated assault if the alligator is determined not to be a “deadly weapon.” There have been aggravated assault with a deadly weapon charges that have alleged a wide variety of instruments were deadly weapons: darts, flower pots, forks, rocks, bicycles, and skateboards are just a few of the more bizarre items and instruments police and prosecutors have alleged were “deadly weapons” (the Florida appellate courts have adjudicated some of these items – flower pots, rocks, etc. – to not be deadly weapons, at least in the circumstances in which they were used).

When determining whether an item is a “deadly weapon,” courts must pay attention to how the particular item is used. A deadly weapon includes anything that is likely of causing death or great bodily injury given the manner in which the defendant uses the item. So while a small flower pot tossed at a victim may not be considered a deadly weapon, that same small flower pot dropped onto a passing vehicle from a freeway may fit the definition.

The Question Revisited

So is an alligator a deadly weapon? It is difficult to say how an appellate court would rule on this issue. On the one hand, one can conclude that an alligator is capable of causing death or great bodily harm. Then again, the same could be said of most household pets – even a scratch from a cat can cause a serious infection that can lead to amputation or death. Are we prepared to consider Fido or Fluffy “dangerous weapons?”

Then there is the additional problem that an alligator is not an inanimate object like a flower pot, a sword, or a gun – it is a living creature. It is difficult to see how one could squeeze an animate and living object to fit into the category of a “weapon” – which implies inanimate objects.

Jeffrey S. Weiner and the law office of Jeffrey S. Weiner, P.A. represent Floridians who have been charged with serious offenses, including battery, assault, and homicide charges. Contact Jeffrey S. Weiner for experienced and skilled representation by calling (305) 670-9919 today or contacting his office online.

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