While anyone who has watched a police drama on TV recently may be familiar with the criminal charge of battery, it’s likely that few can explain what the term actually means. As the Second District Court of Appeal clarifies in Yarn v. State, a battery involves not only a physical element, but also an intent to commit the crime.
Dwight Yarn was arrested and charged with a number of crimes, including aggravated battery on a law enforcement officer with a deadly weapon and battery on a police dog, stemming in part from a car accident that occurred as Yarn was attempting to flee a police officer after committing a robbery. According to the Second District, Yarn was driving down a dead-end street (toward the dead end) when a police deputy blocked the only way out with his Chevy Tahoe K-9 police vehicle. Yarn turned around at the dead end and accelerated before ramming into the Tahoe in an attempt to get by it. The deputy and a police dog – Rex – were in the Tahoe at the time and were both injured.
A trial court denied Yarn’s motion for acquittal on the aggravated battery on a law enforcement officer with a deadly weapon and battery on a police dog charges. He was later convicted and sentenced for these and other charges.
On appeal, the Second District upheld the conviction for the battery on a police officer charge, but overturned the conviction for police dog battery.
Under Section 784.03, Florida Statutes, battery occurs when a person “[a]ctually and intentionally touches or strikes another person…”or intentionally causes another person bodily harm. Battery is enhanced to aggravated battery when the person charged uses a car or other deadly weapon. With or without such a weapon, the crime includes an element of intent, which prosecutors must establish in order to convict, the court explained, citing its 2003 decision in Beard v. State.
The court rejected yarn’s claim that he did not intend to ram the Tahoe and was merely trying to escape. Yarn’s “method of escape was to intentionally ram the Tahoe to attempt to push it out of the way,” the court found. It also observed that Yarn did not claim that he didn’t know that the deputy was in the car at the time.
Nevertheless, the court held that the state did not show that Yarn was aware that Rex was also in the car when the collision occurred. Yarn testified at trial that he didn’t know the dog was in the car and that he didn’t notice the markings identifying the Tahoe as a K-9 unit vehicle. As a result, the court reversed the conviction and sentence for battery on a police dog.
Intent is an important issue in battery and other criminal cases, but it is by no means the only issue that a person charged with a crime in Florida must consider. The South Florida criminal defense lawyers at Anidjar & Levine, P.A. handle a variety of criminal defense cases, including those related to battery charges, throughout the region. To schedule a free, confidential consultation, call 800-747-3733 or submit the “Contact Us” form on our website.
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