Florida Appeals Court Examines Battery on Emergency Care Provider Charge

Legal News GavelMany states, including Florida, have special laws about assaults on emergency medical care providers. If an emergency medical care provider is battered while working in their capacity as a health care provider, then what would normally be a first degree misdemeanor becomes a third degree felony. The specifics of the statute are discussed below. If you are accused of this or any other criminal charges, it is crucial that you contact a knowledgeable Tampa criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Your attorney can help you develop a defense strategy.

The Statute

Section 784.07 of the Florida Statutes defines what is required for a conviction for battery on an emergency care provider. Specifically, it is defined as when one person intentionally strikes another person against their will, and the person who was hit was “engaged in the lawful performance of her duties” as an emergency medical care provider.

In this case, the defendant was acting “erratically,” according to his employer. He was taken to the emergency department of the local VA hospital under the auspices of the “Baker Act.” The Baker Act allows people in severe mental health crises to be admitted to mental health facilities against their will. After finding out that he would not be allowed to leave voluntarily from the facility, he spit on a nurse and VA law enforcement officer. He was charged with battery on an emergency care provider for spitting on the nurse.

Violation of the Statute

The trial court initially found that the defendant was guilty of the offense of battery on an emergency medical care provider. However, the Florida Fourth District Court of Appeal overturned this conviction. They held that the state did not prove all of the elements of the charge, namely stating that the nurse did not qualify as an emergency medical care provider under the statute.

The statute specifically defines “emergency care provider.” An emergency care provider includes “paramedic(s), registered nurses(s), physician(s),” and others. Here, the appeals court made the distinction that the nurse involved was an LPN and not an RN. That is, she was a “licensed practical nurse,” rather than a “registered nurse.” The court noted that because this is a penal statute it needs to be strictly construed to its plain language. In other words, the only people who should be included under this statute are people who are specifically named.

The court here focused on the fact that the state did not prove that the nurse met the definition of an emergency medical care provider. They discussed the difference between the “practical” nursing of an LPN and the “professional” nursing of an RN. They also noted that the state did not prove that she had a license governed by chapter 401, which is also a requirement for “emergency medical care providers.”

However, the defendant’s attorney did not move for an acquittal after the state’s case was completed and thus did not preserve their objection. As such, this argument is not something that can be used as the basis of an appeal. However, it can be used as the basis of an ineffective assistance of counsel claim, and on those grounds the charge was reversed.

Contact An Experienced Tampa Criminal Defense Attorney Today

In order to find a defendant guilty, the prosecution must prove that the defendant’s actions met every element of the crime. A skilled criminal defense attorney can help to point out flaws in prosecution’s case. Our criminal defense attorneys at Hanlon Law Firm can help to vigorously defend you against the charges. Call our offices at (727) 897-5413 or contact us online to speak with our skilled attorneys about your case.

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