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M.S. v. State

Florida Court of Appeals, Fourth District

November 29, 2017

M.S., a Child, Appellant,
v.
STATE OF FLORIDA, Appellee.

         Not final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court for the Nineteenth Judicial Circuit, Indian River County; Victoria L. Griffin, Judge; L.T. Case No. 312015CJ000272A.

          Carey Haughwout, Public Defender, and Virginia Murphy, Assistant Public Defender, West Palm Beach, for appellant.

          Pamela Jo Bondi, Attorney General, Tallahassee, and Jessenia J. Concepcion, Assistant Attorney General, West Palm Beach, for appellee.

          Forst, J.

         Appellant M.S., a juvenile, appeals from the circuit court's final judgment that he was guilty of disrupting an educational institution in violation of section 877.13, Florida Statutes (2016), for which the court withheld adjudication. This charge, and the charge of affray (not relevant to this appeal), stemmed from Appellant's fight with another student in the school hallway while changing class periods. Appellant argues that the court erred in denying his motion for judgment of dismissal because the State did not present sufficient evidence to support a conviction of disrupting an educational institution. We agree with Appellant and thus reverse and remand for entry of a judgment of dismissal on this count.

         Background

         At the adjudicatory hearing, the State presented the following evidence. While changing class periods, Appellant approached another student in the hallway and they engaged in a tense verbal exchange. After pushing each other, the two began to scuffle and other students gathered around the scene making it difficult to pass through the hallway. One of the onlookers pulled the backpack off of the other student during the fight. The physical altercation lasted for less than one minute before school officials arrived, broke up the fight, and chased the onlookers away.

         At the close of the State's evidence, Appellant's counsel moved for a judgment of dismissal. The trial court denied the motion because of the crowd of onlookers the scene created and because the number of officials that reported to the scene were "a little bit more than necessary to . . . just monitor the hallways." The court entered an order finding the State proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Appellant committed disruption of an educational institution as charged. After a disposition hearing, the court withheld adjudication of delinquency and placed Appellant on probation.

         Analysis

         Our standard of review is summarized in S.B. v. State, 31 So.3d 968 (Fla. 4th DCA 2010):

Because the standard of review that applies to motions for judgment of dismissal in a juvenile case is the same standard that applies to motions for judgment of acquittal in an adult criminal case, the juvenile court's ruling is reviewed de novo. When moving for a judgment of acquittal, a defendant admits both the facts adduced, as well as every conclusion favorable to the State that a finder of fact could fairly and reasonably infer from the evidence. Evidence is sufficient to sustain a conviction if a rational trier of fact could find the existence of the elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt after viewing the evidence in a light most favorable to the State.

Id. at 969-70 (citations omitted); accord H.N.B. v. State, 223 So.3d 308, 310 (Fla. 4th DCA 2017).

         Applying this standard of review, we agree with Appellant's argument that the trial court erred in denying his motion for ...


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