Carrying a concealed weapon may be punished harshly in Broward County. Both adults and juveniles may be charged with Broward County weapons crimes. In a recent appellate decision, the appellate court considered the appeal of a juvenile challenging the lower court’s withholding adjudication of delinquency and the placing of him on probation. He’d been charged under section 790.115(2) for possessing a weapon on school property and under section 790.01(1) for carrying a concealed weapon. Both of these counts pertained to a steak knife.
On the day of the incident, the principal met with the juvenile who was 13 years old. He searched his backpack and found a steak knife that had a 4 ½ inch blade. The juvenile was charged.
The prosecution called two witnesses to the stand, the assistant principal and an officer, at the adjudicatory hearing. The defendant objected to the principal’s testimony related to what led the juvenile to his office before the steak knife was found. The prosecutor explained he wanted to ask the principal how he got involved in the case, and what sensory impressions he had, including statements by other students. The defense attorney said this wasn’t relevant since it hadn’t filed a motion to suppress the evidence in the bag; how or why he searched the bag was irrelevant. It claimed the juvenile had the knife because he’d gone fishing with his father. However, the principal hadn’t noticed any other indications of fishing, such as bait or fish odor, in the backpack.
After calling the principal and officer, the prosecutor rested. The juvenile’s attorney asked for judgment of dismissal. It argued that prosecution hadn’t proven the knife counted as a concealed weapon for the charge of unlicensed carrying of a weapon, and it had also failed to show he possessed the knife on school property. The lower court reopened the case and brought the principal back to testify. Over the defense’s objection, the prosecutor asked the principal questions to ascertain when the juvenile was on school property. Following his testimony, the court found that the prosecution had shown a prima facie case on both counts.
The lower court denied the motions for judgment of dismissal about each count. The defense called the juvenile, his father and his mother to the stand. They testified he’d used the knife to cut bait when he and his dad fished two days prior to the principal searching his backpack. The juvenile testified he’d forgotten to take the steak knife out. The lower court found that the steak knife counted as a weapon and was clearly not a pocketknife. It determined the charges had been established beyond a reasonable doubt and withheld adjudication. The juvenile was sentenced to probation with early termination.
The juvenile raised two issues on appeal. He argued that during the hearing, the lower court had made a mistake by using the wrong standard to figure out whether the knife should be considered a concealed weapon. It also claimed the court had made a mistake in becoming an advocate for the prosecution when it, on its own, opened the prosecutor’s case and permitted the recall of the principal.
The appellate court explained that the wrong standard had been used to figure out the knife was a concealed weapon. Under section 790.001(13), a concealed weapon can include a range of things, but not a common pocketknife, blunt-bladed table knife or plastic knife. To secure a conviction, the prosecutor needs to show a knife falls under the definition of concealed weapon in section 790.001(3)(a).
Florida Standard Jury Instruction 10.1 provides a definition in subsection (3)(a) for carrying a concealed weapon. In order to be considered a concealed weapon, the steak knife would have needed to be considered an other deadly weapon. Objects are deadly weapons where their sole contemporary use is to cause great bodily harm, or the accused threatened or used an object in a way that would trigger death or great bodily harm.
The appellate court explained that the defense attorney had prevented the initial testimony, and this stopped the prosecutor from delving into where the incident happened. Accordingly, it found the lower court acted within its role as a factfinder and ruled the lower court had erred in denying the motion for judgment of dismissal regarding the count of carrying a concealed weapon. The other part of the case was affirmed.
If you’re facing firearms or weapons charges in Fort Lauderdale or somewhere else in Broward County, you should retain a knowledgeable attorney who can set forth a strong defense. Call The Hoffman Firm at (954) 524-4474 or (800) 223-1866, or contact us via our online form.