Throwing a Deadly Missile: It’s not what you think.
Florida Statute 790.19 criminalizes “[s]hooting into or throwing deadly missiles into dwellings…buildings, vessels, aircraft…or other vehicles.”
Are you envisioning a snippet of your favorite war movie, where the combatants throw timed explosives behind enemy lines? Though the title of the offense may evoke this mental picture, the crime contemplated by the legislature is much less dramatic.
What is a “Deadly Missile”?
A “deadly missile” under Florida law can be a rock, stone, brick, or even an ordinary household item.
Seemingly innocuous things can fall under the category of deadly missile: In the infamous “grapefruit case” of 1984, the Second District Court of Appeal of Florida upheld the conviction of a defendant who threw a grapefruit at a passing tanker truck. Wilton v. State, 455 So.2d 1142 (Fla. 2d DCA). While it may seem comical, the Court correctly reasoned that “throwing a grapefruit with sufficient force to break the windshield of a moving truck was an act which ‘would produce death or great bodily harm.’” The Court also left room for the possibility that other fruit, i.e., an orange, could be a missile under 790.19. The takeaway is that the manner in which an item is thrown – not just size, weight, and hardness – is relevant to the “deadly missile” analysis.
Other items that may constitute a deadly missile include a soda can, a padlock, a ball, and a phone.
Sometimes, things fly out of our hands due to passionate gestures, a careless grip, or failed communication with the intended recipient. Is being clumsy a crime?
Innocent mistakes are not penalized under 790.19. It is only a crime to shoot or throw a deadly missile “wantonly or maliciously.” The latter contemplates intentional, knowing acts. The term “wanton” means a reckless disregard of others’ safety and indifference to the consequences.
While the crime of throwing a deadly missile is not as extreme as it sounds, its consequences are quite severe.
Those who consider this charge a joke will quickly change their minds upon discovering that Throwing a Deadly Missile is a second-degree felony punishable by fifteen (15) years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Other potential consequences include a lengthy probation sentence, anger management class, court costs, community service, and restitution.
If the accused is a minor and charged as such, the maximum penalty is incarceration in a juvenile detention facility. Probation, fines, court costs, restitution, community service hours, and offense-related classes are also possible.
What Happens When you are Charged with Throwing a Deadly Missile
Law enforcement can initiate criminal proceedings against someone either by arrest or issuance of a Notice to Appear. (In rare cases, police officers exercise a third option: Submit a warrant or summons request to the State Attorney’s Office so that the prosecution can make the charging decision.) Due to the severity of the offense, Throwing a Deadly Missile generally leads to a physical arrest.
After the accused is charged with Throwing a Deadly Missile, he or she will have to face adversarial proceedings in Circuit Court. This is true whether the Defendant is an adult or a minor; an adult will enter a Circuit Criminal division, while a child will enter the Juvenile Division within Circuit Court jurisdiction. A series of pre-trial hearings will ensue, allowing the Defendant to gather evidence (called “discovery”), engage in plea negotiations with the government, file motions, and ultimately decide whether to resolve the case or go to trial.
Why is it Important to Hire an Attorney?
An experienced criminal defense attorney will look for deficiencies in the government’s case by thoroughly investigating the facts. The State has the burden of proving each element of the charge – the physical act of throwing or shooting, the deadliness of the item, and the requisite criminal intent; the defense attorney may be able to identify one or multiple elements that haven’t been met. Factual deficiencies can occur from shoddy police work, unreliable witnesses, an inability to ID the suspect, a mistaken description of the item allegedly thrown, or failure to consider the defendant’s intent.
In a situation where the facts DO support a conviction for Throwing a Deadly Missile, a skillful criminal defense attorney is perhaps even more important; while the facts may not be favorable, law enforcement may have committed legal and procedural missteps that could affect the admissibility of the State’s evidence. By identifying these errors and filing the proper pre-trial motions, a defendant’s chances of success can drastically improve.
Last but not least, a great criminal defense attorney will consider and develop mitigating circumstances that could lead to a reduced sentence or even a chance at dismissal through a diversionary program.
We can help.
If you have been arrested or charged with Throwing or Shooting a Deadly Missile into a house, car, or other structure or conveyance, contact Casanova Law for a consultation. Former prosecutor Lourdes Casanova has extensive experience litigating deadly missile cases, having served both in the adult and juvenile divisions of the Office of the State Attorney for the Fifteenth Judicial Circuit.
Our law firm proudly serves Palm Beach, Martin, Hendry, and Glades counties.