Definition of “Shooting or Throwing a Missile”

The crime of Shooting or Throwing a Deadly Missile is defined in Section 790.19 of the Florida Statutes. The statute provides that:

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…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…or aircraft flying through the airspace…shall be guilty of a felony of the second degree.

In essence, shooting or throwing a ‘deadly missile’ in Florida is the projection of a dangerous object or the shooting of a firearm at a building, vehicle, aircraft, or vessel, with wanton or malicious intent.

Four Distinct Offenses

Shooting or Throwing a Missile may occur in four basic scenarios, each of which contains unique elements which must be proven in order to secure a conviction of that particular offense.  Paul v. State, 112 So. 3d 1188, 1192 (Fla. 2013). These scenarios include:

  1. Public or private buildings, whether occupied or unoccupied;
  2. Public or private vehicles of any kind which are being used or occupied by any person;
  3. Watercraft which are lying in or plying the waters of this state; and
  4. Aircraft flying through the airspace.  Id. at 1192.

Wanton Or Malicious Conduct

To sustain a conviction for Shooting or Throwing a Deadly Missile, the prosecution must establish that the defendant’s conduct was ‘wanton’ or ‘malicious’ in nature.

The term ‘wantonly’ is defined in the Florida Standard Jury Instructions to mean consciously and intentionally, with reckless indifference to consequences and with the knowledge that damage is likely to be done to some person.

‘Maliciously’ means wrongfully, intentionally, without legal justification or excuse, and with the knowledge that injury or damage will or may be caused to another person or the property of another person. Where the acts in question result from a defendant’s confusion, disorientation, or negligence, a conviction cannot be sustained. Gonedes v. State, 574 So.2d 1198 1199 (Fla. 4th DCA 1991).

Vehicles Must be Occupied

Where the charge concerns an object or “missile” that is shot, thrown, or projected at a non-building, the target structure must generally be occupied or in use in order to subject the defendant to criminal liability. Paul v. State, 112 So. 3d 1188, 1195-96 (Fla. 2013).

Thus, where a vehicle is concerned, the offense necessarily involves the use of physical force or violence against an individual who is using or occupying the vehicle. Id. at 1194.

Broad Definition of ‘Missile’

The term ‘Missile’ has no precise definition under Florida law. At least one appellate court has defined “missile” as “any object or weapon that is fired, thrown, dropped, or otherwise projected at a target. J. W. B. v. State, 419 So.2d 407 (Fla. 2d DCA 1982).

However, the object must be identifiable and one that is capable of producing death or great bodily harm. E.J. v. State, 554 So.2d 578, 579 (Fla. 3d DCA 1989) (reversing an adjudication of delinquency for throwing a deadly missile where witnesses could not say what the object was). D.B.C. v. State, 341 So.2d 230 (Fla. 1st DCA 1976); Carter v. State, 469 So.2d 775 (Fla. App. 1st DCA 1984) (stating that the object must be capable of causing death or great bodily harm).

Examples of ‘Missiles’

Florida courts have identified a wide variety of objects that may constitute a “missile” for purposes of a Shooting or Throwing Missiles charge. Fruit, drink bottles, rocks, metal objects, and a wide range of other items have all been found to be “missiles” for purposes of criminal prosecution.

  • J.W.B. (orange thrown at a school bus);
  • Zachary v. State, 269 So.2d 669 (Fla.1972) (12 ounce soft drink bottle);
  • J. T. K. v. State, 341 So.2d 229 (Fla. 1st DCA 1976) (rocks and ballasts);
  • Wilton v. State, 455 So.2d 1142 (Fla. 2d DCA 1984) (grapefruit);
  • Carter v. State, 469 So.2d 775 (Fla. 1st DCA 1984) (metal lock).

Proving the Charge at Trial

To prove Shooting or Throwing Missiles at trial, the State of Florida must establish the following three elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. The Defendant shot a firearm, threw a missile, or hurled or projected a stone or other hard substance that would produce death or great bodily harm;
  2. The Defendant did so at, within, or into [a public or private building, occupied or unoccupied], [a public or private bus], [a train, locomotive, railway car, caboose, cable railway car, street railway car, monorail car, or vehicle of any kind that was being used or occupied by any person], [a boat, vessel, ship, or barge lying in or plying the waters of this state], or [an aircraft flying through the air space of this state]; and
  3. The act was done wantonly or maliciously.

Penalties for the Offense

Section 790.19 of the Florida Statutes classifies Shooting or Throwing a Deadly Missile (into a dwelling or vehicle) as a second degree felony. As such, the offense carries penalties of up to fifteen (15) years in prison or 15 years of probation, and a $10,000 fine.

Defenses to Shooting or Throwing a Missile

There are many defenses available to contest a charge of shooting or throwing a missile in Florida. Some of the more common defenses include the following:

  • The object does not constitute a “missile” or other qualifying instrument/object;
  • The object is not capable of producing great bodily harm or death;
  • The object cannot be identified with sufficient evidence to sustain a conviction;
  • Lack of evidence that the defendant threw or otherwise projected the object;
  • If a vehicle or other non-building was the target, the vehicle or other structure was not occupied;
  • Accidental projection or throwing;
  • Lack of malicious or wanton intent;
  • The act in question resulted from mere negligence;
  • Police acquired evidence of the offense through an unlawful search, seizure, or interrogation.

Contact an Attorney

If you have been arrested for throwing or shooting a missile or other object into a dwelling or vehicle you may have defenses available to contest the charge or to minimize potential penalties. Contact Hussein & Webber, PL today for a free consultation.  Our criminal attorneys handle cases throughout the State of Florida.