Acquittals in Florida Road Rage Trials
A spate of South Florida “road rage” incidents in recent years has led prosecutors to aggressively press forward with felony charges such as battery, aggravated battery and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon.
However, two of those cases have recently ended in jury acquittals. A third is slated for trial in December.
Our felony defense attorneys in Broward know that these kind of serious charges can result in years behind bars. It’s a terrifying prospect, particularly given the fact that many road rage defendants have never before been on this side of the law.
The first of these three cases to go to trial involved a retired dentist who was charged with aggravated battery in Palm Beach County. During the course of a two-week trial, the 66-year-old presented a case indicating he was acting in self-defense when he fired his license weapon into vehicle occupied with four young people. One person was left with not life-threatening bullet wounds, while another suffered cuts from shattered glass.
Jurors would later say the decision wasn’t easy, but they ultimately came to the conclusion that the 23-year-old who was shot was the aggressor in the situation.
Initially, the defense team attempted to have the charges tossed under the state’s Stand Your Ground Law . However, that defense was rejected. The defendant then turned down a plea deal that would have forced him to serve five years in prison.
The charge of aggravated battery, per Florida Statute 784.045, is a second-degree felony which carries a possible 15-year sentence. Because the alleged crime was carried out with a deadly weapon, he was facing a possible sentence of 25 years to life.
Defense attorneys brought witnesses who testified that the younger driver, who was unarmed, lunged out of his car window at the armed senior.
The conflict reportedly arose because the younger driver honked at the older one when he deemed him traveling too slow. The older driver then pulled over, stopped and began to get out of his vehicle. At that point, the younger driver, he says, attempted to run him over. However, he avoided him and sped off. The two then came up next to one another at a red light. The younger driver was reportedly shouting profanities and, according to the defendant, lunged at him from the window. It was at that point that the defendant fired into the occupied vehicle.
In the second recent case, the jury found a former U.S. Marine and mixed martial arts fighter not guilty in the aggravated battery of two pool service workers. The men reportedly engaged in a confrontation in Coral Springs after the defendant reportedly honked at the two men, in a separate vehicle, for not moving quickly enough when the light turned green.
Both vehicles eventually pulled over. The men alleged the defendant pistol-whipped them, beat them and placed them in a wrestling hold.
When police arrived, all three were initially detained, but only the defendant was charged. He faced three counts of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon (his hands). He faced up to 10 years in prison.
His defense lawyers argued he could have killed the men with his bare hands had his goal been to seriously harm them. However, his only intention, lawyers said, was to de-escalate the situation and detain them until police arrived – which is what he did.
Ultimately, the jury found him not guilty.
A third road rage case involving a former Broward County Sheriff’s deputy is pending, delayed until December. He was reportedly off-duty at the time, but armed and in his cruiser. He is accused of confronting a female driver, snatching her phone and then tossing it out the window. He was fired and now faces charges of burglary, battery, criminal mischief and petty theft.
If you are charged with a crime in Palm Beach or Broward counties, contact the Law Offices of Leifert & Leifert, a Partnership of Former Prosecutors, for a free consultation to discuss your rights. Call 1.888.5.DEFEND.
Former MMA fighter found not guilty in road rage incident, Oct. 24, 2013, By Ishovani Rodriguez, Sun Sentinel