Monday, August 8, 2016

Is an alligator a deadly weapon?

As we know from recent news and common sense, an alligator is a deadly animal.
Last October 2015 in Orlando Florida, a young man named Joshua James stopped outside the drive-up window at a Wendy's fast-food restaurant and threw a 3-1/2 foot long alligator through the window. 

He faces three charges related to the incident: aggravated assault with a deadly weapon; unlawful sale, possession or transporting of an alligator; and petty theft.

Taking those charges in reverse order:

(1) petty theft -- Mr. James [took leave of his senses and] allegedly picked up the alligator at the side of the road.  Alligators are an endangered species, [despite the fact there are over one million alligators in Florida alone].  I'm not sure of the exact requirements under Florida law to be guilty of petty theft, but I do know it must require (a) a theft, and (b) less than a specified dollar amount.  Presumably this must include proving the alligator was the personal property of someone other than Mr. James, and it was worth less than the Florida dollar amount for a grand theft.

(2) Unlawful sale, possession or transporting of an alligator -- Mr. James possessed and transported the alligator in his car, which was presumably unlawful because it was not his alligator and/or it is an endangered species.

(3) Aggravated assault with a deadly weapon -- the main question presented: is a 3-1/2 foot alligator a deadly weapon?

This site gives a very good analysis of this question under Florida law.  And, as all good legal analyses conclude, the answer is – drumroll – it depends.

It depends on the alligator.

I definitely encourage all of my blog readers to read the full analysis in that link, because it is (1) thorough, and (2) funny, but if you just want the final PROBABLE answer –


Because Joshua James was able to collect the alligator from the side of the road without injury, transport it in his car without injury, and throw it into the drive-up window without injury, it is likely that this particular alligator will not be considered a deadly weapon, at least under Florida law.  Therefore, it is likely he will be found guilty of a misdemeanor (the other two charges), but not a felony.

But, a larger and/or more aggressive alligator would have resulted in a different conclusion.

And presumably also a different end result for the health of Mr. James.

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