Shooting or Throwing Deadly Missiles in Florida

September 13, 2021 Criminal Defense

Under Florida Law, it is a crime to shoot into or throw deadly missiles into dwellings, public or private buildings, occupied or not, aircrafts, vessels, buses, railroad cars, streetcars, or other vehicles. Pursuant to Florida Statute 790.19, “whoever, wantonly or maliciously, shoots at, within, or into, or throws any missile or hurls or projects a stone or other hard substance which would produce death or great bodily harm, at, within, or in any public or private building, occupied or unoccupied, or public or private bus or any train, locomotive, railway car, caboose, cable railway car, street railway car, monorail car, or vehicle of any kind which is being used or occupied by any person, or any boat, vessel, ship, or barge lying in or plying the waters of this state, or aircraft flying through the airspace of this state” can be charged with this crime, which carries significant penalties.

What Does the State Need to Prove?

In order to secure a conviction for this offense, the prosecution must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. The accused threw a missile, projectile, or other hard object, or shot a firearm, the result of which could produce great bodily harm or death.
  2. The accused did so into or inside of a dwelling, public or private building, occupied or not, aircraft, vessel, bus, railroad car, streetcar, or other vehicle in the State of Florida.
  3. The accused performed this action with a wanton or malicious intent.

In Florida, “wanton” refers to a conscious and intentional state of mind, wherein the accused possesses a reckless indifference to any consequences that could arise and with the knowledge that harm is likely to occur.

In Florida, “malicious” refers to a wrongful or intentional state of mind, wherein there is no justification or excuse legally, and the accused possessed the knowledge that harm could or will occur.

There are a few common scenarios where this charge may occur, and each scenario requires the prosecution to prove elements unique to the particular circumstances. These scenarios are:

  1. Aircrafts traveling through Florida’s airspace;
  2. Water vessels traveling or docked in Florida’s water space;
  3. Public or private buildings that may be occupied or unoccupied; and
  4. Public or private vehicles which are occupied or in use by an individual.

What is a Missile?

Under Florida Law, there is no exact definition for what a “missile” would constitute. However, some Florida courts have attempted to define this term, stating that a “missile” is any weapon or object that is thrown, dropped, projected, or fired, and would be likely to produce great bodily harm or death. This object or weapon has to be identifiable and capable of producing the great bodily harm or death.

Many unlikely objects have been the basis for Shooting or Throwing a Deadly Missile charges:

  • In Carter v. State, the “missile” was a metal lock, though the exact object thrown was at issue, that was thrown with sufficient force to shatter a reinforced glass plane in a guard control room.
  • In Wilton v. State, the “missile” was a grapefruit that was thrown through a tanker truck’s window, resulting in injury to the driver.
  • In Zachary v. State, the “missile” was a 12-ounce pop bottle thrown with force from 15 years away.

Penalties for Shooting or Throwing a Deadly Missile

Florida law provides that this offense, if proven, is punishable as a second-degree felony with up to fifteen years in the Department of Corrections, fifteen years of probation or community control, and a $10,000 fine. The sentence can include any combination of these penalties.

Shooting or Throwing a Deadly Missile Defenses

Some common defenses to this charge include:

  • The object cannot be qualified as a “missile”
  • The object is not able to produce death or great bodily harm
  • The object is not identifiable
  • No evidence of the accused throwing, firing, or projecting the object
  • If the charge was in reference to a vehicle, the vehicle was unoccupied
  • There was no intentional throwing, firing, or projection
  • Lack of requisite intent
  • Fourth Amendment violations in the seizing of evidence
  • Fifth Amendment violations in the interrogation process

Tallahassee Criminal Defense Attorney

As you can see from the case examples above, throwing or projecting a deadly missile can be charged even when the object is as innocent as a piece of fruit. Also seen above, this charge can carry severe penalties if proven. If you or a loved one has been accused of this crime, it is imperative you seek the guidance of an aggressive and experienced Tallahassee criminal defense attorney. Don Pumphrey and the members of the legal team at Pumphrey Law Firm have immense experience defending Floridians from unjust charges and can ensure you or a loved one receive a well-formed and uncompromising defense. Call us today at (850) 681-7777 or send an online message to discuss your case during an open and free consultation with an attorney in our legal team.

This article was written by Gabi D’Esposito

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